Synaxis of the Twelve Holy Apostles, Michael the New Martyr of Athens
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.
MATTHEW 9:36, 10:1-8
At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaios, and Thaddaios; Simon the Cananaean. and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
Synaxis of the Holy, Glorious and All-Praised Twelve Apostles
The Synaxis of the Glorious and All-Praiseworthy Twelve Apostles of Christ appears to be an ancient Feast. The Church honors each of the Twelve Apostles on separate dates during the year, and has established a general commemoration for all of them on the day after the commemoration of the Glorious and First-Ranked among the Apostles Peter and Paul.
The holy God-crowned Emperor Constantine the Great (May 21) built a church in Constantinople in honor of the Twelve Apostles. There are instructions for celebrating this Feast which date from the fourth century. For lists of the Apostles' names, see: Mt.10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 6:12, Acts 1:13, 26.
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Andrew the First-called is also commemorated on November 30. He was the brother of Saint Peter (June 29).
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle James is also commemorated on April 30. He and his brother John are the sons of Zebedee, and were called “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3: 17).
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, virgin, and beloved friend of Christ, John the Theologian is also commemorated on September 26 and May 8. He and his brother James are the sons of Zebedee, and were called “sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Philip is also commemorated on November 14.
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Bartholomew is also commemorated on June 11 and August 25.
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Thomas is also commemorated on October 6 and on the Sunday after Pascha.
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle and Evangelist Matthew is also commemorated on November 16.
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle James, the son of Alphaeus, is also commemorated on October 9.
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Jude is also commemorated on June 19. He is also known as Thaddeus (but should not be confused with Saint Thaddeus of the Seventy, who is commemorated on August 21), and was the brother of Saint James (October 23).
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Simon the Zealot is also commemorated on May 10.
The holy, glorious, all-laudable Apostle Matthias is also commemorated on August 9.
Saint Peter, Prince of Ordinsk, Rostov
Saint Peter, Prince of the Horde, was the nephew of Bergai Khan of the Golden Horde. In the year 1253 Saint Cyril, Bishop of Rostov (May 21), went to the Horde to petition for church needs in his diocese and he told the khan about the Christian Faith, and of the miracles and healings worked by the relics of Saint Leontius of Rostov (May 23). Among the retinue was the young nephew of the khan, upon whom the holy bishop made a very strong impression. After some length of time the son of Bergai fell ill. Remembering the account of the Russian bishop about the healings, he summoned Saint Cyril, and through his prayers the sick one was healed. The khan richly rewarded Saint Cyril and sent him off to his diocese.
Along the way the lad, the nephew of Bergai Khan, overtook the holy hierarch, and entreated him to take him along to Rostov. At Rostov the boy was baptized with the name Peter, and he married. Saint Peter distinguished himself with a love for silence, contemplation, and prayer. After a miraculous appearance to him of the Apostles Peter and Paul he built a monastery near Lake Nera in their honor. After the death of his wife, shortly before his own death in 1290, the saint embraced monasticism at the monastery he had founded.
Local veneration of the holy Prince Peter began in the fourteenth century. A general celebration was established at the Council of 1547.
Translation of the relics of Saint Sophronius, Bishop of Irkutsk
Saint Sophronius, Bishop of Irkutsk and All Siberia, reposed on March 30, 1771, the second day of Holy Pascha. While they awaited a decision of the Holy Synod concerning the burial, his body remained unburied for six months, and during this time it was not subject to decay. Then, in view of this circumstance, and also knowing about the strict ascetic life of Saint Sophronius, the flock began to venerate him as a saint of God. Frequently (in 1833, 1854, 1870, 1909) his relics were seen to be incorrupt, and a source of grace-filled miracles. A fire occurring on April 18, 1917 at the Theophany Cathedral at Irkutsk left only the bones of the holy bishop. This did not diminish, but on the contrary, it increased the reverent veneration of the saint by the faithful of the nation.
A local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in its deliberations of April 10/23, 1918 decided to glorify Bishop Sophronius, numbering him among the holy saints of God. This solemnity of adding Saint Sophronius to the list of the saints was done on June 30. At a second session of this Council under the presidency of His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon (now Saint Tikhon) a Service to Saint Sophronius was approved, with a Troparion composed by Archbishop John, who at that time guided the Irkutsk diocese, so that all believers would have the possibility of adding prayer to the holy saint into the voice of the Siberian churches, deeply venerating the memory of their illuminator and intercessor.
And at the present time believers turn for help to Saint Sophronius. Prayers witness to this, having been composed on the day of the 40th year celebration of the glorification of the holy hierarch on July 13,1958, by Metropolitan Nestor (Anisimov), then Metropolitan of Novosibirsk and Barnaulsk, and a solemn feast of the 200 year anniversary of the day of death of Saint Sophronius took place at the Zolotonoshsk Krasnogorsk women’s monastery and in the Irkutsk diocese (Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, 1971, No. 9), and he is venerated by all believers of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Icon of the Mother of God of Balikin
The Balikin Icon of the Mother of God is from the Chernigov Province. The child Christ is clothed only around the waist, and rests in His Mother’s lap. The hands of the Theotokos are joined in prayer.
Saint Gelasius of Rimet
Saint Gelasius was the igumen of the Rimet Monastery in Transylvania. He had lived as a solitary near Rimet creek, and he was granted the grace of working miracles.
The saint fasted on weekdays, eating only on Saturdays and Sundays, and his only food was the Eucharist. During the day he fulfilled his monastic obediences, and at night he kept vigil.
Saint Gelasius was the spiritual Father of many hermits of Rimet Mountain, whom he would visit during Great Lent. He healed the sick, and cast out demons from those who were possessed. It is said that a spring of water appeared through his holy prayers.
His later years were spent as a bishop, and he departed to the Lord after many labors on behalf of his flock.
Saint Gelasius was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.
Holy Queen Dinar
The Russian Church has preserved chronicles of the life of Queen Dinar, a woman who achieved much on behalf of the Christian Faith. For years scholars have disputed about the historical figure discussed in great depth in the Russian Church. Many believed that the sources described Holy Queen Tamar, but the period of Tamar’s rule does not match that of the figure described in the chronicles. The Georgian chronicle Life of Kartli, however, has preserved information about a certain Dinar, Queen of Hereti (southeastern Georgia), who, along with her son Ishkhanik, converted Hereti to the Orthodox Faith and delivered its people from the Monophysite heresy in the 10th century. Queen Dinar’s story resembles that recounted in the Russian Chronicles more closely than any other.
According to the Armenian historian Moses of Kalankaytuk, Slavic tribes that carried out incursions in the southernmost Caucasus often journeyed through the Transcaucasus, and it was with these tribes that the story of Queen Dinar made its way to Russia. The Georgian Church renders great honor to Holy Queen Dinar. As a result of her zealous labors and achievements, a large part of the eastern Transcaucasus was saved from the Monophysite heresy that dominated the region.
Today, on the north wall of the Throne Hall in the Moscow Kremlin, there hangs an image of Holy Queen Dinar mounted on a white horse, victorious over the enemy.
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 11:21-33; 12:1-9
Brethren, whatever anyone dares to boast of — I am speaking as a fool — I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for ever, knows that I do not lie. At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas guarded the city of Damascus in order to seize me, but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped his hands.
I must boast; there is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise — whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows — and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. Though if I wish to boast, I shall not be a fool, for I shall be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
At that time, when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leaders of the Apostles, Peter and Paul
Sermon of Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo
Today the Holy Church piously remembers the sufferings of the Holy Glorious and All-Praised Apostles Peter and Paul.
Saint Peter, the fervent follower of Jesus Christ, for the profound confession of His Divinity: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” was deemed worthy by the Savior to hear in answer, “Blessed art thou, Simon … I tell thee, that thou art Peter [Petrus], and on this stone [petra] I build My Church” (Mt.16:16-18). On “this stone” [petra], is on that which thou sayest: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God” it is on this thy confession I build My Church. Wherefore the “thou art Peter”: it is from the “stone” [petra] that Peter [Petrus] is, and not from Peter [Petrus] that the “stone” [petra] is, just as the Christian is from Christ, and not Christ from the Christian. Do you want to know, from what sort of “rock” [petra] the Apostle Peter [Petrus] was named? Hear the Apostle Paul: “Brethren, I do not want ye to be ignorant,” says the Apostle of Christ, “how all our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Cor.10: 1-4)….
Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the final days of His earthly life, in the days of His mission to the race of man, chose from among the disciples His twelve Apostles to preach the Word of God. Among them, the Apostle Peter for his fiery ardor was vouchsafed to occupy the first place (Mt.10:2) and to be as it were the representative person for all the Church. Therefore it is said to him, preferentially, after the confession: “I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in the heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth: shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt.16: 19). Therefore it was not one man, but rather the One Universal Church, that received these “keys” and the right “to bind and loosen.” And that it was actually the Church that received this right, and not exclusively a single person, turn your attention to another place of the Scriptures, where the same Lord says to all His Apostles, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit” and further after this, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whose soever sins ye retain, are retained” (John 20: 22-23); or: “whatsoever ye bind upon the earth, shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosened in heaven” (Mt.18:18). Thus, it is the Church that binds, the Church that loosens; the Church, built upon the foundational cornerstone, Jesus Christ Himself (Eph 2:20), doth bind and loosen. Let both the binding and the loosening be feared: the loosening, in order not to fall under this again; the binding, in order not to remain forever in this condition. Therefore “Iniquities ensnare a man, and everyone is bound in the chains of his own sins,” says Wisdom (Prov 5:22); and except for Holy Church nowhere is it possible to receive the loosening.
After His Resurrection the Lord entrusted the Apostle Peter to shepherd His spiritual flock not because, that among the disciples only Peter alone was pre-deserved to shepherd the flock of Christ, but Christ addresses Himself chiefly to Peter because, that Peter was first among the Apostles and as such the representative of the Church; besides which, having turned in this instance to Peter alone, as to the top Apostle, Christ by this confirms the unity of the Church. “Simon of John” — says the Lord to Peter — “lovest thou Me?” — and the Apostle answered: “Yea, Lord, Thou knowest that I love Thee”; and a second time it was thus asked, and a second time he thus answered; being asked a third time, seeing that as it were not believed, he was saddened. But how is it possible for him not to believe That One, Who knew his heart? And wherefore then Peter answered: “Lord, Thou knowest all; Thou knowest that I love Thee.” “And sayeth Jesus to him” all three times “Feed My sheep” (John 20:15-17).
Besides this, the triple appealing of the Savior to Peter and the triple confession of Peter before the Lord had a particular beneficial purpose for the Apostle. That one, to whom was given “the keys of the kingdom” and the right “to bind and to loose,” bound himself thrice by fear and cowardice (Mt.26:69-75), and the Lord thrice loosens him by His appeal and in turn by his confession of strong love. And to shepherd literally the flock of Christ was acquired by all the Apostles and their successors. “Take heed, therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock,” the Apostle Paul urges church presbyters, “over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28); and the Apostle Peter to the elders: “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof not by constraint, but willingly: not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when is appeared the Prince of pastors, ye will receive unfading crowns of glory” (1 Pet. 5:2-4).
It is remarkable that Christ, having said to Peter: “Feed My sheep,” did not say: “Feed thy sheep,” but rather to feed, good servant, the sheep of the Lord. “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor.1:13). “Feed My sheep”. Wherefore “wolfish robbers, wolfish oppressors, deceitful teachers and mercenaries, not being concerned about the flock” (Mt.7:15; Acts 20:29; 2 Pet 2:1; John 10:12), having plundered a strange flock and making of the spoils as though it be of their own particular gain, they think that they feed their flock. Such are not good pastors, as pastors of the Lord. “The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11), entrusted to Him by the chief Shepherd Himself (1 Pet 5:4). And the Apostle Peter, true to his calling, gave his soul for the very flock of Christ, having sealed his apostleship by a martyr’s death, is now glorified throughout all the world.
The Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, was changed from a robbing wolf into a meek lamb. Formerly he was an enemy of the Church, then is manifest as an Apostle. Formerly he stalked it, then preached it. Having received from the high priests the authority at large to throw all Christians in chains for execution, he was already on the way, he breathed out “threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), he thirsted for blood, but “He that dwells in the Heavens shall laugh him to scorn” (Ps 2:4). When he, “having persecuted and vexed” in such manner “the Church of God” (1Cor.15:9; Acts 8:5), he came near Damascus, and the Lord from Heaven called to him: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” and I am here, and I am there, I am everywhere: here is My head; there is My body. There becomes nothing of a surprise in this; we ourselves are members of the Body of Christ. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me; it is hard for thee to kick against the goad” (Acts 9:4-5). Saul, however, “trembling and frightened”, cried out: “Who art Thou, Lord?” The Lord answered him, “I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest.”
And Saul suddenly undergoes a change: “What wantest Thou me to do?” — he cries out. And suddenly for him there is the Voice: “Arise, and go to the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6). Here the Lord sends Ananias: “Arise and go into the street” to a man, “by the name of Saul,” and baptize him, “for this one is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9: 11, 15, 18). This vessel must be filled with My Grace. “Ananias, however, answered: Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints in Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Thy Name” (Acts 9:13-14). But the Lord urgently commands Ananias: “Search for and fetch him, for this vessel is chosen by Me: for I shall show him what great things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:11, 15-16).
And actually the Lord did show the Apostle Paul what things he had to suffer for His Name. He instructed him the deeds; He did not stop at the chains, the fetters, the prisons and shipwrecks; He Himself felt for him in his sufferings, He Himself guided him towards this day. On a single day the memory of the sufferings of both these Apostles is celebrated, though they suffered on separate days, but by the spirit and the closeness of their suffering they constitute one. Peter went first, and Paul followed soon after him. Formerly called Saul, and then Paul, having transformed his pride into humility. His very name (Paulus), meaning “small, little, less,” demonstrates this. What is the Apostle Paul after this? Ask him, and he himself gives answer to this: “I am,” says he, “the least of the Apostles… but I have labored more abundantly than all of them: yet not I, but the grace of God, which was with me” (1 Cor.15:9-10).
And so, brethren, celebrating now the memory of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, remembering their venerable sufferings, we esteem their true faith and holy life, we esteem the innocence of their sufferings and pure confession. Loving in them the sublime quality and imitating them by great exploits, “in which to be likened to them” (2 Thess 3: 5-9), and we shall attain to that eternal bliss which is prepared for all the saints. The path of our life before was more grievous, thornier, harder, but “we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12: 1), having passed by along it, made now for us easier, and lighter, and more readily passable. First there passed along it “the author and finisher of our faith,” our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Heb 12: 2); His daring Apostles followed after Him; then the martyrs, children, women, virgins and a great multitude of witnesses. Who acted in them and helped them on this path? He Who said, “Without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15: 5).
The Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leader of the Apostles, Peter
The hymns for their Feast speak of Saints Peter and Paul as leaders (koryphaioi), and chiefs of the Apostles. They are, without a doubt, the foremost in the ranks of the Apostles.
The koryphaioi were leaders of the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy. They set the pattern for the singing, and also for the dance movements and gestures of the chorus. Before Sophocles, there were twelve members of the chorus, and Saints Peter and Paul were the leaders of the twelve Apostles.
Both Saint Peter and Saint Paul received new names, indicating a new relationship with God. Simon the fisherman became known as Cephas (John 1:42), or Peter after confessing Jesus as the Son of God (Mt.16:18).
Saint Peter, the brother of Saint Andrew, was a fisherman on the sea of Galilee. He was married, and Christ healed his mother-in-law of a fever (Mt.8:14). He, with James and John, witnessed the most important miracles of the Savior’s earthly life.
Despite his earlier recognition of Christ as the Son of God, he denied Him three times on the night before the Crucifixion. Therefore, after His Resurrection, the Lord asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Then He told Peter to feed His sheep (John 21:15-17).
After the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Saint Peter addressed the crowd (Acts 2:14), and performed many miracles in Christ’s name. He baptized Cornelius, the first Gentile convert (Acts 10:48). He was cast into prison, but escaped with the help of an angel (Acts 5:19). Saint Peter also traveled to many places in order to proclaim the Gospel message. He wrote two Epistles, which are part of the New Testament.
Saint Peter was put to death in Rome during the reign of Nero. According to Tradition, he asked to be crucified upside down, since he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
The Holy Glorious and All-Praised Leader of the Apostles, Paul
The hymns for their Feast speak of Saints Peter and Paul as the leaders (koryphaioi), and chiefs of the Apostles. They are, without a doubt, the foremost in the ranks of the Apostles.
The koryphaioi were leaders of the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy. They set the pattern for the singing, and also for the dance movements and gestures of the chorus. Before Sophocles, there were twelve members of the chorus, and Saints Peter and Paul were the leaders of the twelve Apostles.
Saint Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and lived in Tarsus in Cilicia. He once described himself as a Hebrew, an Israelite of the seed of Abraham (2 Cor. 11:22). He was also a Pharisee and a tent-maker (Acts 18:3) who had studied the Law with Gamaliel at Jerusalem.
At first, he was called Saul, and had persecuted the Church. He was present at the stoning of Saint Stephen (Acts 7: 58). Then, on the road to Damascus, he was converted when Christ appeared to him. Blinded by the vision, he was healed when Ananias laid his hands on him. After his cure, he was baptized (Acts 9:18).
Saint Paul preached the Gospel in Greece, Asia Minor, and in Rome, and wrote fourteen Epistles. Tradition says that he was martyred in Rome about the year 68.
Icon of the Mother of God of Kasperov
The Kasperov Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Tradition says that this holy icon had been brought to Cherson from Transylvania by a Serb at the end of the sixteenth century. Passing down from parent and child, the icon had come to a certain Mrs. Kasperova of Cherson in 1809.
One night in February of 1840 she was praying, seeking consolation in her many sorrows. Looking at the icon of the Virgin, she noticed that the features of the icon, darkened by age, had suddenly become bright. Soon the icon was glorified by many miracles, and people regarded it as wonderworking.
During the Crimean War (1853-1856), the icon was carried in procession through the city of Odessa, which was besieged by enemy forces. On Great and Holy Friday, the city was spared. Since that time, an Akathist has been served before the icon in the Dormition Cathedral of Odessa every Friday.
The icon is painted with oils on a canvas mounted on wood. The Mother of God holds Her Son on her left arm. The Child is holding a scroll. Saint John the Baptist (Janurary 7) is depicted on one side of the icon, and Saint Tatiana (January 12) on the other. These were probably the patron saints of the original owners of the icon.
The Kasperov Icon is commemorated on October 1, June 29, and Bright Wednesday.
Romans 5:1-11: Brethren, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die. But God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation.
Matthew 6:22-33: The Lord said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not the soul more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of heaven: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his stature? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon himself in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”
Troparion of the Resurrection: When thou, O immortal Life, didst humble thyself unto death, then didst thou destroy death by the brightness of thy Godhead; and when thou didst raise the bowels of the earth, then all the heavenly powers exclaimed, O Christ, thou art the Giver of life! Glory to thee, O our God!
Troparion of the Chains of St. Peter: O Holy Apostle, Peter, thou dost preside over the Apostles by the precious chains which thou didst bear. We venerate them with faith and beseech thee that by thine intercessions we be granted the great mercy.
Kontakion of the Theotokos: O undisputed intercessor of Christians, O mediatrix, who is unrejected by the Creator, turn not away from the voice of our petitions though we be sinners; come to us in time, who cry to thee in faith, for thou art good. Hasten to us with intercessions, O Theotokos, who didst ever intercede for those who honor thee.
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE: All services listed on the calendar will be available through streaming and webcast.
Please continue to follow the CDC Guidelines to limit contagion and the spread of the COVID virus.
The Eucharist Bread …was offered by the Bakers for the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul this past Tuesday evening and by the Dn. Richard Roots for the Divine Liturgy this morning.
Eucharist Bread Schedule:
Eucharist BreadCoffee Hour
July 3 R. Root Henderson/Jones
July 10 Pacurari POT LUCK MEAL
July 17 Brock Ellis/Zouboukos/Waites
July 24 Henderson Meadows/Pigott
July 31 Algood Algood/Schelver
Also, please remember that we still need your tithes and offerings which may be placed in the tray that is passed during the Divine Liturgy, in the tithe box at the back of the nave or be mailed to: St. Peter Orthodox Church, P.O. Box 2084, Madison, MS 39130-2084.
Schedule for Epistle Readers – Page numbers refer to the Apostolos (book of the Epistles) located on the Chanters’ stand at the front of the nave. Please be sure to use this book when you read.
July 3 Sam Habeeb Rom. 5:1-10 96
July 10 Ian Jones II Tim. 2:1-10 328
July 17 Kh. Sharon Meadows Titus 3:8-15 322
July 24 Ian Jones Rom. 12:6-14 113
July 31 Brenda Baker Rom. 15:1-7 119
Continue to pray for Metropolitan Paul (who is also the brother of our Patriarch) and the Syriac Archbishop John of Aleppo who were abducted while on a humanitarian mission in Syria.
Please remember Fr. Joseph and Kh. Joanna Bittle, and their daughter Abigail, in your prayers.
Please remember the following in your prayers: Aidan Milnor, the Milnor family; Lamia Dabit and her family; Mary Greene (Lee and Kh. Sharon’s sister); Jay and Joanna Davis; Fr. Leo and Kh. Be’Be’ Schelver and their family; Kathy Willingham; Marilyn (Kyriake) Snell; Jack and Jill Weatherly; Lottie Dabbs (Sh. Charlotte Algood’s mother), Sh. Charlotte and their family; Maria Costas (currently at St. Catherine’s Village); Reader Basil and Brenda Baker and their family; Buddy Cooper.
If you are not feeling well, PLEASE do not attempt to come to the services. This also includes anyone who may have been exposed to you during this time. Also, please let Fr. Herman know if you are not feeling well and have COVID like symptoms.
* The men of the parish meet for lunch at 11:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of the month.
* The Ladies meet at the church at 10:00 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month to pray the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children on behalf of our children.
* The Ladies meet for lunch on the last Tuesday of the month.
* Father Herman will be helping to lead a retreat at the Antiochian Village, July 3-9.
* The Clergy Symposium will be held at the Antiochian Village, July 18-23.
* Vacation Church School is scheduled for July 28-30. Parents, mark your calendar now.
* The remaining date for Stewpot for 2022 is Saturday, September 3rd.
Instructions for streaming our services can be found on the parish website.
PARENTS, a problem has arisen due to the nursery room being left messy after Coffee Hour. No food of any kind should be taken into that room. Also, it is necessary for a parent to be in the room whenever their children are in there playing. Thank you for your assistance with this.
Fasting Discipline for July
In July the traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, eggs, fish, wine or oil) is observed on all Wednesdays and Fridays of the month.
Major Commemorations for July
July 5 Athanasios of Athos
July 11 Euphemia the all-praised
July 17 Great-martyr Marina
July 20 Prophet Elias
July 25 Dormition of Righteous Anna
July 27 Great-martyr Panteleimon
Quotable “As health comes from the bitter medicine, so too does the salvation of souls come from bitter experiences.”
St. Paisios the Athonite
Worship: Sunday, July 10, 2022 (Fourth Sunday after Pentecost; Joseph of Damascus)
Finding of the Relics of Cyrus and John the Unmercenaries, Sergios the Magister, Pappias the Martyr, Righteous Fathers Sergius and Herman, Founders of Valaam Monastery, Synaxis of the Icon of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos , Paul the Physician of Corinth
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 7:14-8:2
Brethren, we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.
The Lord said to his disciples, "Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.
Translation of the Relics of the holy and wonderworking Unmercenaries Cyrus and John
The Transfer of the Relics of the Holy Martyrs, Unmercenaries and Wonderworkers, Cyrus and John from the city of Konopa, near Alexandria (where they suffered in the year 311) to the nearby village of Manuphin, took place in the year 412. This Egyptian village prompted fear in everyone, since in a former time there was a pagan temple inhabited by evil spirits. Patriarch Theophilus (385-412) wanted to cleanse this place of demons, but he died. His wish was fulfilled by his successor in the See of Alexandria, the holy Patriarch Cyril (412-444). He prayed fervently in carrying out this project. An angel of the Lord appeared in a vision to the hierarch and commanded the venerable relics of Saints Cyrus and John be transferred to Manuphin. His Holiness Patriarch Cyril did the angel’s bidding and built a church at Manuphin in the name of the holy martyrs.
From that time this place was purified of the Enemy’s influence, and by the prayers of the holy Martyrs Cyrus and John there began to occur many miracles, healings of the sick and infirm. An account of Saints Cyrus and John is located under January 31.
Venerable Xenophon, Abbot of Robeika, Novgorod
Our holy Father Xenophon of Robeika was the disciple of Saint Barlaam of Khutyn (November 6). He became the third Igoumen of the Khutyn monastery after Igoumen Isidore (+1243), and at the insistence of Saint Anthony of Dymsk (June 24). After resigning as Igoumen, Saint Xenophon would later establish Holy Trinity Monastery on the banks of the Robeika River (not far from Novgorod).
Saint Xenophon's pious disposition was apparent from his earliest years, for he knew that this world will soon pass away. He also knew that this life is filled with sorrow, but after it there shall be everlasting life, which is true, filled with joy and spiritual consolations. With all his heart, mind, and soul, the Venerable one was drawn to the attainment of this eternal, joyous life with the Lord. He tried his best to avoid the sensuality of worldly life, striving only for its higher meaning.
Saint Xenophon settled with Saint Barlaam of Khutyn in the wilderness at the place where Xenophon would shine forth like a pillar of fire. There they put up a cross, built a chapel and a humble dwelling. By the Lord's will, however, the disciple went far away from his Elder to another spot where he could live an ascetical life under harsh conditions. This occurred while they were inspecting the site where they wanted to establish their dwelling.. A terrible storm sprang up, and Saint Xenophon called his Elder to come into the cell and take cover; but the Elder became angry at his disciple, telling him to go on a raft in search of another place for his ascetical struggles, and he gave him a quarter of a loaf of bread.
Saint Xenophon set off on the raft upon the Robeika River, miraculously sailing against the current, and soon he stood upon the shore. He stopped at the place where the raft had stuck, and there he fished, praying that the Lord would strengthen him.
After some time, Saint Xenophon went back to his Spiritual Father Saint Barlaam, asking for forgiveness. He received the Elder's blessing to build a chapel at the place where he now lived. Saint Barlaam blessed him, and in all humility, the disciple went back, set up a cross, and then built a chapel and a small hut for his cell.
Later, after the consecration of the church of Saint Nicholas, Saint Xenophon's monastic community was established in the same remote marshland. Other ascetics of piety began to flock there, but the number of monks was small.
In 1251, Saint Xenophon became the Igoumen of the monastery. Although the monastery was neither wealthy nor distinguished, the monks labored to make it beautiful.
Saint Xenophon reposed peacefully on June 28, 1262. His holy relics rested for many years in the monastery church, which later became a parish.
Venerable Sergius and Herman, Wonderworkers of Valaam
Saints Sergius and Herman settled on the island of Valaam in 1329. The brethren gathered by them spread the light of Orthodoxy in this frontier land. The Karelian people began to regard Christianity with renewed suspicion, with its authority in the fourteenth century being undermined by the Swedes, who sought to spread Catholicism by means of the sword.
Saints Sergius and Herman died about the year 1353. They are also commemorated on September 11 (the translation of their holy relics).
Saint Paul, Physician of Corinth
Saint Paul the Physician, from the city of Corinth, in his youth took monastic tonsure at one of the monasteries. Here the saint toiled much and became an experienced ascetic.
Once Paul, through demonic malice, was slandered by a woman. She came to the monastery with a newborn infant and said, that Saint Paul was the father. The Elder with humility and joy endured the slander, he did not deny it and he took the infant, as though it were his own son. When they began to reproach the saint for breaking his monastic vows, Saint Paul said, “Brethren, let us ask the infant who his father is!” The newborn, pointing his hand at the blacksmith, said, “Here is my father and not the monk Paul.” Seeing this miracle, people bowed down to the Elder, asking forgiveness. From this time Saint Paul received from God the gift of healing the sick, whereby he received the name physician. Saint Paul died at age 70.
Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Three Hands”
The Icon of the Mother of God, “Of the Three Hands”: In the eighth century during the time of the Iconoclasts, Saint John of Damascus (December 4) was zealous in his veneration of holy icons. Because of this, he was slandered by the emperor and iconoclast Leo III the Isaurian (717-740), who informed the Damascus caliph that Saint John was committing treasonous acts against him. The caliph gave orders to cut off the hand of the monk and take it to the marketplace. Towards evening Saint John, having asked the caliph for the cut-off hand, put it to its joint and fell to the ground before the icon of the Mother of God. The monk begged Our Lady to heal the hand, which had written in defense of Orthodoxy. After long prayer he fell asleep and saw in a dream that the All-Pure Mother of God had turned to him promising him quick healing.
Before this the Mother of God bid him toil without fail with this hand. Having awakened from sleep, Saint John saw that his hand was unharmed. In thankfulness for this healing Saint John placed on the icon a hand fashioned of silver, from which the icon received its name “Of Three Hands.” (Some iconographers, in their ignorance, have mistakenly depicted the Most Holy Theotokos with three arms and three hands.) According to Tradition, Saint John wrote a hymn of thanksgiving to the Mother of God: “All of creation rejoices in You, O Full of Grace,” which appears in place of the hymn “It is Truly Meet” in the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great.
Saint John Damascene accepted monasticism at the monastery of Saint Savva the Sanctified and there bestowed his wonderworking icon. The Lavra presented the icon “Of Three Hands” in blessing to Saint Savva, Archbishop of Serbia (+ 1237, January 12). During the time of an invasion of Serbia by the Turks, some Christians who wanted to protect the icon, entrusted it to the safekeeping of the Mother of God Herself. They placed it upon a donkey, which without a driver proceeded to Athos and stopped in front of the Hilandar monastery. The monks put the icon in the monastery’s cathedral church (katholikon). During a time of discord over the choice of igumen, the Mother of God deigned to head the monastery Herself, and from that time Her holy icon has occupied the igumen’s place in the temple. At the Hilandar monastery there is chosen only a vicar, and from the holy icon the monks take a blessing for every obedience.
In Greek usage, this Icon is commemorated on June 28; but on July 12 in Slavic usage.
The Hieromartyr Basil (Sitnikov) was a deacon of the Dalmatov – Saint Nicholas Church in the province of Perm. He graduated from the three classes of the religious school, and beginning in 1885, he served as a Reader. In 1898, he was ordained as a deacon, serving first at Saint John the Baptist Church in the village of Izyeduga in the Shadrinsk district of the Yekaterinburg diocese. Later, he served in the Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos in the village of Baklanskoye in that same district.
On November 5, 1913, he was transferred to the Saint Nicholas Church in the city of Dalmatov, where he was put to death by the atheists who had come to power. In 1918, after the priests Vladimir Sergeiev and Alexander Sidorov were arrested, Deacon Basil began to reproach the atheists for plundering the property of these arrested shepherds. They took note of this and got their revenge. Deacon Basil Sitnikov was killed on the day after the priests with whom he served, on June 28, 1918.
Holy Martyr Pappias
Numerous Christians were slaughtered during the persecution under Diocletian and Maximian in the early IV century,
and Saint Pappias was one of those arrested for preaching the Gospel. The idol-worshippers tried to force him to
sacrifice to the pagan gods, but he refused to deny Christ. Therefore, he was imprisoned and tortured for several days.
When he remained unshakeable in his faith, he was beheaded, and his soul ascended victoriously into Heaven.
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Samson the Hospitable, Joanna the Myrrhbearer, Anektos the Martyr, Luke the Hermit
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 7:1-14
Brethren, I am speaking to those who know the law. Do you not know that the law is binding on a person only during his life? Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died; the very commandment which promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, finding opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and by it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
MATTHEW 9:36-38; 10:1-8
At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaios, and Lebbaeos called Thaddaios; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.
Saint Sampson the Hospitable of Constantinople
Saint Sampson (Σαμψών) was born in Rome, the son of wealthy, but devout and virtuous parents. He received an excellent education, studying philosophy and medicine, among other subjects. From his earliest childhood, he lived an exemplary Christian life. After the death of his parents he transformed the family estate into a clinic for the sick. Word of his healing skills spread, and so many people came to him that he had to hire a staff to care for the increasing numbers of people who sought his help. When he had an adequate staff, he donated all of his wealth to the clinic, and was content to live in poverty (Luke 12:33-34).
Saint Sampson went to Constantinople, where he hoped to spend the rest of his life in asceticism. He found, however, that there was just as much need for his skill in Constantinople as there had been in Rome. He bought a modest home and began to treat the sick. God blessed Saint Sampson's work and gave him the grace of working miracles. He healed the sick not only by his medical skill, but also as one filled with the grace of God. News of Saint Sampson spread rapidly throughout the Queen of Cities.
His piety and love for his neighbor brought him to the attention of Patriarch Menas of Constantinople (August 25), who ordained him to the holy priesthood. When Emperor Justinian became ill, and his physicians were unable to provide any relief for him, Patriarch Menas suggested that he send for Sampson, who healed the Emperor. Justinian offered him gold and silver to show his gratitude, but the saint refused, saying that he had already given all his wealth away. Instead, he asked Justinian to build a hospice for travelers.
His Life was written by St. Symeon Metaphrastes. The historian Procopius, however, implies that Sampson lived before the sixth century, and that the hospice had existed before his own time (Buildings, I, 2, 14). When Sampson's hospice (xenon) was burnt and destroyed in 532, Justinian rebuilt it and endowed it with a generous annual income. It was intended for the destitute, and those who suffered from serious illnesses, as well as those who had lost their property or their health.
Saint Sampson reposed quietly, following a brief illness, in the year 530 at a ripe old age. He was buried in the church of Saint Mokios (Μώκιος), which was built by Saint Constantine the Great. Many miracles of healing took place at the tomb of Saint Sampson.
Even after his death, the Saint continued to watch over his hospice. Twice he appeared to a lazy worker, and chastised him for his negligence. Later, the hospice became a church, and a new building for the homeless was constructed beside it. A terrible fire once raged in Constantinople, but did not damage the church or the new building. Through the prayers of Saint Sampson, a heavy rain extinguished the flames.
The appointed Scriptural readings for his Feast are from Galatians 5:23-6:2 and from Luke 12:32-40.
Through the prayers of Saint Sampson, may we also find the treasure which does not fail, in Heaven.
Saint Joanna the Myrrhbearer
Saint Joanna was the wife of Herod's household stewart Khouza (Χουζά) and she served the
Lord during His public ministry, along with some other women. She is mentioned in Luke 8:3 and 24:10.
According to Tradition, she recovered the head of Saint John the Baptist after Herodias had disposed of it (February 24).
Saint Joanna went to the Sepulchre with the other Myrrh-bearing Women, in order to anoint the Holy Body of the Lord with myrrh after His death on the Cross. She also heard from the angels the joyful proclamation of His All-Glorious Resurrection.
Saint Joanna reposed peacefully in the first century. She is also commemorated on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women.
Venerable Serapion of Kozhe Lake
Among the captives whom the Kazan Tatars brought to Moscow in 1551 was the myrza (Tatar Prince) Turtas Gravirovich. He was baptized with the name Sergius and lived in the home of the Moscow boyar Zachariah Plescheev. Sergius embraced the Christian Faith so sincerely, that he decided to dedicate himself wholly to God.
On a desert peninsula of Kozhe Lake in 1560, he met the anchorite Niphon, who became his Elder. Together they began to share the struggle of a harsh reclusive life, and their food consisted of grass and berries. Sergius obeyed all of Niphon's instructions to the letter. After a trial period, Sergius asked the Elder if he might receive the monastic tonsure. Seeing his sincerity and the purity of his wishes, the Elder tonsured him with the name Serapion.
Little by little the hermits became known, and stories about them began to attract spiritual zealots to their spiritual life. Serapion's reclusive life lasted almost eighteen years. When Niphon and Serapion has a fair number of monks, Father Niphon went to Moscow to ask for some land for the monastery, but he reposed in Moscow before he could conduct his business there. The monastic community was not yet aware of Father Niphon's fate.
At the time, because of the the lack of food supplies, people began to get hungry, and out of compassion for the suffering, Father Serapion went to seek donations. He was given some grain to make bread, and a millstone. He carried all this by himself to the monastic community and saved the brethren from dying of starvation.
Upon learning of Niphon's passing, Saint Serapion went to Moscow. There he received a document from Tsar Theodore (1584-1598) dated September 30, 1584 which provided the land for the new monastic community: four versts in all directions; A Metropolitan gave him a gramota with his blessing for the establishment of a monastery. Returning to his place, Saint Serapion and the monks cleared the forest in order to have land for growing crops. They put up fences around the monastery and built two temples: one dedicated to the Holy Theophany, and the other to Saint Nicholas. Patriarch Job (1589-1605; † 1607) gave Saint Serapion two antimensia for the churches.
In 1608, when Saint Serapion had grown quite old, he made his disciple Abramius Igoumen in his place. Saint Serapion reposed on June 27, 1611 and was buried in the church of the Kozhe Lake Monastery, leaving behind as many as forty monks in that community.
In 1613 the monk Bogolep of Kozhe Lake wrote an account of the founding of the monastery, and of its initial construction under Saint Serapion. He also compiled a Life of Saint Serapion.
Saint Severus the Presbyter of Interocrea, Italy
Saint Severus the Presbyter during the sixth century served in a church of the Most Holy Theotokos in the village of Interocrea in Central Italy. He was noted for his virtuous and God-pleasing life. One time, when the saint was working in his garden, cutting grapes in the vineyard, they summoned him to administer the Holy Mysteries for the dying. Saint Severus said: “Go back, and I’ll catch up with you soon.”
There remained only but a few more grapes to cut off, and Saint Severus dallied for awhile in the garden to finish the work. When he arrived at the sick person’s home, they told him that the person was already dead. Saint Severus, regarding himself as guilty in the death of a man without absolution, started to tremble and loudly he began to weep. He went into the house where the deceased lay.
With loud groans and calling himself a murderer, in tears he fell down before the dead person. Suddenly the dead man came alive and related to everyone that the demons wanted to seize his soul, but one of the angels said, “Give him back, since the priest Severus weeps over him, and on account of his tears the Lord has granted him this man.” Saint Severus, giving thanks to the Lord, confessed and communed the resurrected man with the Holy Mysteries. That man survived for another seven days, then joyfully went to the Lord.
Venerable George of Mount Athos
Saint George’s family had its roots in the region of Samtskhe in southern Georgia. George was born in Trialeti to the pious Jacob and Mariam.
When George reached the age of seven, the God-fearing and wise Abbess Sabiana of Tadzrisi Monastery in Samtskhe took him under her care. George spent three years at Tadzrisi, and when he was ten his father sent him to Khakhuli Monastery, to his own brothers Saints George the Scribe and Saba.
Soon after, Prince Peris Jojikisdze of Trialeti invited George’s uncle, George the Scribe, to stay with him, and George’s uncle took his young nephew with him. But the Byzantine emperor Basil II subsequently summoned Peris and his family to Constantinople, accused him of conspiring against the throne, and had him beheaded. (At that time Trialeti was under the jurisdiction of Byzantium.) Peris’ faithful wife remained in Constantinople for twelve years and sent the young George to study with the finest philosophers and rhetoricians of that time.
Eventually Emperor Basil was moved with compassion for the prince’s family and permitted them to return to Georgia. The twenty-five-year-old George returned to Khakhuli Monastery and “bowed his neck to the sweet yoke of monastic life.”
Later George secretly left the monastery and, clad in beggars’ rags, journeyed to Jerusalem. After enduring many deprivations and overcoming a great number of obstacles, he reached the Black Mountains near Antioch and, after venerating the holy places and visiting several elders, began to search for a spiritual father and guide. He found the great Georgian elder Saint George the Recluse (the God-bearer) in an isolated cave and remained there with him for three years.
Then Saint George the Recluse tonsured his disciple, “who had reached perfection of age, wisdom and understanding,” into the great schema and sent him to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage. According to his teacher’s counsel, George then moved from Jerusalem to the Ivḗron Monastery on Mt. Athos to continue the work of Saint Ekvtime—the translation of theological texts from the Greek to the Georgian language. George considered himself unworthy and unqualified to continue Saint Ekvtime’s great work, but Saint George the Recluse was insistent, so he set off for the Holy Mountain in humble obedience.
The monks of the Ivḗron Monastery received Saint George with great joy. But instead of translating the patristic texts as his spiritual father had advised him, George soon grew slothful and for seven years performed only the work of a novice. When Saint George the Recluse heard this, he sent his disciple Tevdore to Mt. Athos to rebuke him and remind him of the reason he had been sent there. Finally George of the Holy Mountain obeyed the will of his teacher, and soon he was enthroned as abbot of the monastery.
From that time on Saint George of the Holy Mountain pursued his work with great earnestness. He gathered information on Saints Ekvtime and John, compiled their Lives, translated their holy relics to ornate burial vaults covered in precious jewels, and enhanced the life of the monastery in many other ways.
During a visit to the Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachus, the Georgian king Bagrat IV Kuropalates offered George the opportunity to return to Georgia to be consecrated bishop of Chqondidi and serve as his own spiritual adviser. But George declined, having already been drawn far from the vanity of the world.
Leadership of the monastery was demanding, and George was forced to choose between his literary work and the life of the monastery.
He resigned as abbot and returned to Saint George the Recluse for counsel. But his teacher blessed him to return to the Ivḗron Monastery, so George set off again for Mt. Athos.
The God-fearing king Bagrat IV Kuropalates continued to ask Saint George to return to Georgia, and he finally consented to the will of the king and the catholicos. In accordance with their request, the pious father instituted general guidelines for the qualifications and conduct of the clergy and wisely administered the affairs of the Church. Five years later Saint George returned to the Ivḗron Monastery. Before he departed, King Bagrat bestowed upon him much of his own wealth and saw him off with great respect.
Departing for Mt. Athos, Blessed George took with him eighty orphans. En route he stopped in Constantinople, and sensing that the day of his repose was near, he arranged for the orphans to be received in the emperor’s court. He personally requested that the emperor make provision for the orphaned children.
Venerable George of the Holy Mountain reposed peacefully the next day, the Feast of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. His Athonite brothers buried him on the monastery grounds with great reverence.
Finding of the relics of Venerable Ambrose of Optina
No information available at this time.
Venerable Martin of Turov
Saint Martin of Turov served as a cook under the Turov bishops Simeon, Ignatius, Joachim (1144-1146), and George. This last hierarch made Saint Martin retire because of his age. But the old man did not want to leave the monastery (the bishops lived at the monastery of Saints Boris and Gleb), and so he accepted monasticism.
In his former work he had often overexerted himself and therefore often fell ill.
One time Saint Martin lay motionless and in moaning with sickness. He fervently called on Saints Boris and Gleb for help, and on the third day the saints appeared to him, gave him a sip of water, and healed him of his illness. After this miraculous healing, Saint Martin survived for another year.
Hieromartyr Kirion II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia
The holy Hieromartyr Kirion II (known in the world as George Sadzaglishvili) was born in 1855 in the village of Nikozi in the Gori district. His father was a priest.
He enrolled at the parochial school in Ananuri, then at the theological school in Gori, and finally at Tbilisi Seminary.
In 1880 he graduated from the Kiev Theological Academy and was appointed assistant dean of the Odessa Theological Seminary. From 1883 to 1886 Saint Kirion was active in the educational life of Gori, Telavi, Kutaisi, and Tbilisi. In 1886 he was appointed supervisor of the Georgian monasteries and dean of the schools of the Society for the Renewal of Christianity in the Caucasus. He directed the parochial schools, established libraries and rare book collections within them, and published articles on the history of the Georgian Church, folklore and literature under the pseudonyms Iverieli, Sadzagelov, and Liakhveli (the Liakhvi River flows through his native region of Shida [Inner] Kartli, the central part of eastern Georgia).
In 1886 God’s chosen, George, was tonsured a monk with the name Kirion, and he was enthroned as abbot of Kvabtakhevi Monastery. Kirion continued his scholarly pursuits and intensified his spiritual labors. He collected folklore and ethnographic materials and studied artifacts from ancient Georgian churches. He generously donated the reliquaries and rare manuscripts he found to the antiquities collections at the Church Museum of Tbilisi and the Society for the Propagation of Literacy among the Georgians.
In 1898 Kirion published a description of the historical monuments of Liakhvi Gorge. His publication is an important resource for scholars and historians, since most of the monuments he describes were toppled by Georgia’s ideological and national enemies in subsequent years. (Kirion would later join the Moscow Archaeological Society.)
In August of 1898 Archimandrite Kirion was consecrated bishop of Alaverdi.
Saint Kirion began at once to rebuild Alaverdi Church, and he offered his own resources for this momentous task. At the same time, he began to study the ancient artifacts of Kakheti and Hereti in eastern Georgia. Among the manuscripts he turned over to the Church Museum of Tbilisi was a Holy Gospel from the year 1098, unknown to scholars until that time.
Bishop Kirion was a tireless researcher, with a broad range of scholarly interests. To his pen belong more than forty monographs on various themes relating to the history of the Georgian Church and Christian culture in Georgia. He compiled a short terminological dictionary of the ancient Georgian language and, with the linguist Grigol Qipshidze, a History of Georgian Philology.
Kirion fought the appropriation of Georgian churches by the Armenian Monophysites. He sent a detailed memorandum to the Russian exarch in Georgia demanding that the confiscated Orthodox churches be returned.
In 1901 Kirion was installed as bishop of Gori. By that time it had become clear to the Georgian exarchate that the educated and progressive clergymen were endorsing the holy hierarch Kirion and contesting the abolition of the autocephaly of the Georgian Church. But the government found a way out of this “dangerous situation” by frequently reassigning Saint Kirion to serve in different parts of the Russian Empire: in 1903 he was reassigned to Cherson, in 1904 to Orel, and in 1906 to Sokhumi. In Sokhumi Saint Kirion exerted every effort to restore and revive the historical Georgian churches and monasteries, though he would soon be reassigned to the Kovno diocese.
In 1905, at the demand of Georgia’s intelligentsia (under the leadership of Saint Ilia the Righteous), the regime formed an extraordinary commission to formally consider the question of the autocephaly of the Georgian Church. Saint Kirion delivered two lectures to the commission: one on the reasons behind Georgia’s struggle for the restoration of an autocephalous Church, and the other on the role of nationality in the life of the Church. The commission rejected the Georgian claims to autocephaly and subjected the leaders of the movement to harsh repression.
In 1907 Saint Ilia the Righteous was killed, and the government forbade Saint Kirion to travel to Georgia to pay his last respects. Saint Kirion managed only to send a letter of condolence to Saint Ilia’s loved ones. In the months that followed, the regime tightened down even more severely on Saint Kirion. In 1908 he was accused of conspiring in the murder of Exarch Nikon, deprived of the rank of bishop, and arrested. This treacherous deed roused the indignation not only of the Georgian people but of the faithful of Russia as well. Even the democratic forces in Europe founded a society for the protection of the rights of Bishop Kirion and gathered signatures to demand his release from prison. The bishop himself humbly carried the cross of his persecution and consoled his sympathizers with the words of the great Georgian poet Shota Rustaveli: “‘Not a single rose is plucked from this world without thorns.’ We must bear our suffering with love, since suffering is the fruit of love and in suffering we will find our strength!”
By the year 1915 the regime had ceased to persecute Saint Kirion. They restored him to the bishopric and elevated him as archbishop of Polotsk and Vitebsk in western Russia. He was not, however, permitted to return to his motherland.
In March of 1917 the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church declared its autocephaly restored. At the incessant demands of the Georgian people, Saint Kirion finally returned to his motherland. One hundred and twenty cavalrymen met him in Aragvi Gorge (along the Georgian Military Highway) and reverently escorted him to the capital. In Tbilisi Saint Kirion was met with great honor.
In September of 1917 the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church enthroned Bishop Kirion as Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. During the enthronement ceremony at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Saint Kirion addressed the faithful: “My beloved motherland, the nation protected by the Most Holy Theotokos, purified in the furnace by tribulations and suffering, washed in its own tears: I return to you, having been separated from you, having sought after you, having grieved over you, having sought for you and now having returned not as a prodigal son, but as your confidant and the conscience of your Church.
“I know that in your minds you are all inquiring, ‘What has he brought back with him? With what ointment will he heal his wounds? How will he comfort himself in his sadness?’ Consider my words: He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). I, likewise, have come not as a hired servant, but as a faithful and obedient son!”
Soon after he was enthroned, Saint Kirion sent an appeal to all the Orthodox patriarchs of the world in which he described in detail the history of the Georgian Church and requested an official recognition of her autocephaly.
On May 26, 1918, Georgia declared its independence. The next day Catholicos-Patriarch Kirion II presided during a service of thanksgiving. The chief shepherd and his flock rejoiced at the restoration of the autocephaly of the Georgian Church and the independence of the Georgian state, though from the beginning they perceived the imminence of the Bolshevik danger. The socialist revolution, now showing its true face, posed an enormous threat to the young republic and her Church.
On June 27, 1918, Catholicos-Patriarch Kirion II was found murdered in the patriarchal residence at Martqopi Monastery. The investigation was a mere formality and the guilty were never found.
Rumors were even spread that Saint Kirion had shot himself. When the Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church convened on October 17, 2002, it canonized Holy Hieromartyr Kirion and numbered him among the saints.
2nd Sunday of Matthew, David the Righteous of Thessalonika, Appearance of the Icon of Our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos of Tikhvin
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 2:10-16
Brethren, glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
At that time, as Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left their boat and their father, and followed him. And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
Synaxis of the Saints of North America
On the second Sunday after Pentecost, each local Orthodox Church commemorates all the saints, known and unknown, who have shone forth in its territory. Accordingly, the Orthodox Church in America remembers the saints of North America on this day.
Saints of all times, and in every country are seen as the fulfillment of God’s promise to redeem fallen humanity. Their example encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us” and to “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The saints of North America also teach us how we should live, and what we must expect to endure as Christians
Although it is a relatively young church, the Orthodox Church in America has produced saints in nearly all of the six major categories of saints: Apostles (and Equals of the Apostles); Martyrs (and Confessors); Prophets; Hierarchs; Monastic Saints; and the Righteous. Prophets, of course, lived in Old Testament times and predicted the coming of Christ.
The first Divine Liturgy in what is now American territory (northern latitude 58 degrees, 14 minutes, western longitude 141 degrees) was celebrated on July 20, 1741, the Feast of the Prophet Elias, aboard the ship Peter under the command of Vitus Bering. Hieromonk Hilarion Trusov and the priest Ignatius Kozirevsky served together on that occasion. Several years later, the Russian merchant Gregory I. Shelikov visited Valaam monastery, suggesting to the abbot that it would be desirable to send missionaries to Russian America.
On September 24, 1794, after a journey of 7,327 miles (the longest missionary journey in Orthodox history) and 293 days, a group of monks from Valaam arrived on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The mission was headed by Archimandrite Joasaph, and included Hieromonks Juvenal, Macarius, and Athanasius, the Hierodeacons Nectarius and Stephen, and the monks Herman and Joasaph. Saint Herman of Alaska (December 13, August 9), the last surviving member of the mission, fell asleep in the Lord in 1837.
Throughout the Church’s history, the seeds of faith have always been watered by the blood of the martyrs. The Protomartyr Juvenal was killed near Lake Iliamna by natives in 1799, thus becoming the first Orthodox Christian to shed his blood for Christ in the New World. In 1816, Saint Peter the Aleut was put to death by Spanish missionaries in California when he refused to convert to Roman Catholicism.
Missionary efforts continued in the nineteenth century, with outreach to the native peoples of Alaska. Two of the most prominent laborers in Christ’s Vineyard were Saint Innocent Veniaminov (March 31 and October 6) and Saint Jacob Netsvetov (July 26), who translated Orthodox services and books into the native languages. Father Jacob Netsvetev died in Sitka in 1864 after a life of devoted service to the Church. Father John Veniaminov, after his wife’s death, received monastic tonsure with the name Innocent. He died in 1879 as the Metropolitan of Moscow.
As the nineteenth century was drawing to a close, an event of enormous significance for the North American Church took place. On March 25, 1891, Bishop Vladimir went to Minneapolis to receive Saint Alexis Toth (May 7) and 361 of his parishioners into the Orthodox Church. This was the beginning of the return of many Uniates to Orthodoxy.
Saint Tikhon (Bellavin), the future Patriarch of Moscow (April 7, October 9), came to America as bishop of the diocese of the Aleutians and Alaska in September 1898. As the only Orthodox bishop on the continent, Saint Tikhon traveled extensively throughout North America in order to minister to his widely scattered and diverse flock. He realized that the local church here could not be a permanent extension of the Russian Church. Therefore, he focused his efforts on giving the American Church a diocesan and parish structure which would help it mature and grow.
Saint Tikhon returned to Russia in 1907, and was elected as Patriarch of Moscow ten years later. He died in 1925, and for many years his exact burial place remained unknown. Saint Tikhon’s grave was discovered on February 22, 1992 in the smaller cathedral of Our Lady of the Don in the Don Monastery when a fire made renovation of the church necessary.
Saint Raphael of Brooklyn (February 27) was the first Orthodox bishop to be consecrated in North America. Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated by Bishop Tikhon and Bishop Innocent (Pustynsky) at Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York on March 13, 1904. As Bishop of Brooklyn, Saint Raphael was a trusted and capable assistant to Saint Tikhon in his archpastoral ministry. Saint Raphael reposed on February 27, 1915.
The first All American Council took place March 5-7, 1907 at Mayfield, PA, and the main topic was “How to expand the mission.” Guidelines and directions for missionary activity, and statutes for the administrative structure of parishes were also set forth.
In the twentieth century, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, countless men, women, and children received the crown of martyrdom rather than renounce Christ. Saints John Kochurov (October 31) and Alexander Hotovitzky (December 4 and August 7) both served the Church in North America before going back to Russia. Saint John became the first clergyman to be martyred in Russia on October 31, 1917 in Saint Petersburg. Saint Alexander Hotovitzky, who served in America until 1914, was killed in 1937.
In addition to the saints listed above, we also honor those saints who are known only to God, and have not been recognized officially by the Church. As we contemplate the lives of these saints, let us remember that we are also called by God to a life of holiness.
Saint David of Thessaloniki
Saint David of Thessalonica pursued asceticism at the monastery of the holy Martyrs Theodore and Mercurius. Inspired by the example of the holy stylites, he lived in an almond tree in constant prayer, keeping strict fast, and enduring heat and cold. He remained there for three years until an angel told him to come down.
St David received from God the gift of wonderworking, and he healed many from sickness. The holy ascetic gave spiritual counsel to all who came to him. Having attained to passionlessness, he was like an angel in the flesh, and he was able to take hot coals into his hands without harm. He died the year 540.
Saint Dionysius, Archbishop of Suzdal
Dionysius, Archbishop of Suzdal, in the world David, was tonsured at the Kiev Caves monastery. He arrived at the Volga with an icon of the Mother of God that he had received as a blessing from Saints Anthony and Theodosius. Saint Dionysius dug out a cave not far from Nizhni-Novgorod and struggled in total solitude. Brethren constantly thronged to the holy ascetic and in the year 1335 he founded a monastery in honor of the Ascension of the Lord. Among the students of Saint Dionysius were Saints Euthymius of Suzdal (April 1) and Macarius of Zheltovod and Unzha (July 25). In the year 1352 the holy Elder sent twelve of his brethren to “the upper cities and countryside, whom God would bless” for the spiritual enlightenment of the people and the organizing of new monasteries. The monastery of Saint Dionysius exerted a deep charitable influence on the inhabitants of Nizhni-Novgorod. In the year 1371 the saint tonsured into monasticism the forty-year-old widow of Prince Andrew Constantinovich, an example of how he accepted into monasticism “various dignitaries: women, widowers, and virgins.”
In the year 1374 Saint Dionysius was deemed worthy of the office of bishop. His years of service as bishop occurred during a remarkable period, for Russia was rising to cast off the Mongol-Tatar Yoke. On March 31, 1375 the Tatar military-chief, having been shown to the bishop’s court by the enslaved inhabitants of Nizhni-Novgorod, shot an arrow at Saint Dionysius, but the Lord preserved his chosen one, and the arrow struck only the bishop’s mantle. In 1377, through the blessing of Saint Dionysius (who may have edited the document), the Lavrentian Chronicle was compiled by Saint Laurence, inspiring Russia in its struggle for freedom.
In 1379, preserving the integrity of the first hierarch’s cathedra, Saint Dionysius was one of the bishops gathered in Moscow by order of the prince, and he came out against the election of the prince’s protegee, the ill-reputed archimandrite Mityaya as Metropolitan.
In the same year of 1379 Saint Dionysius journeyed to Constantinople with a protest against the choice of Mityaya on grounds of his complicity with the heretical Strigolniki. The saint made a strong impression upon the Greeks by his sublime spiritual frame of mind and his profound knowledge of Holy Scripture. Patriarch Nilus, having termed the saint “a warrior of God and a spiritual man,” wrote that he himself saw him “at fasting and charity, and vigil, and prayers, and tears, and every other virtue.” From Constantinople Saint Dionysius sent two copies of the Hodēgḗtria Icon of the Mother of God to a Council at Suzdal. In 1382 the bishop received the title of archbishop from the patriarch. Returning to Russia, the saint travelled to Pskov and Novgorod to struggle against the heresy of the Strigolniki.
He visited Constantinople a second time in 1383 for discussion with the patriarch on questions about the governance of the Russian metropolitanate. In the year 1384 Saint Dionysius was made “metropolitan for Russia” by Patriarch Nilus. But upon his return to Kiev the saint was arrested on orders of the Kiev prince Vladimir Olgerdovich and subjected to imprisonment, where he died on October 15, 1385. The burial of the saint was in “the Kiev Cave of the Great Anthony.” Saint Dionysius is commemorated on June 26 because it is the Feast of his patron saint, Saint David of Thessalonica, whose name he was given in Baptism. In the Synodikon of the 1552 Nizhni-Novgorod Caves monastery, Saint Dionysius is called a “wonderworking monk”.
Translation of the relics of Saint Tikhon of Luchov, Kostroma
In the year 1569 the healing of many sick persons began at the tomb of Saint Tikhon of Lukhov, and his holy relics were found to be incorrupt. However, Igumen Constantine, who uncovered the relics, was struck blind. After repenting and then recovering his sight, he placed Saint Tikhon’s relics back into the ground. The veneration of Saint Tikhon dates from this time. His Life with a description of 70 posthumous miracles was compiled in the year 1649.
Saint Tikhon of Lukhov is also commemorated on June 16 (his blessed repose in 1503).
Saint John, Bishop of the Goths in the Crimea
Saint John, Bishop of the Goths, lived during the eighth century. The future saint was born in answer to the fervent prayer of his parents. From an early age, he lived a life of asceticism.
The saint made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and spent three years visiting all the holy places. Then he returned to his native country. At that time the emperor Constantine Copronymos the Iconoclast (741-775) banished the Gothic bishop, and the Goths fervently entreated Saint John to become their bishop.
Saint John went to Georgia, which was isolated from the Iconoclast heresy. There he was ordained. Upon his return to the Goths he was soon compelled to depart from them. Hidden away from the pursuing Khazars, he settled at Amastridia, where he dwelt for four years.
Hearing about the death of the Khazar kagan (ruler), the saint said, “After forty days I shall go to be judged with him before Christ the Savior.” Indeed, the saint died forty days later. This took place when he returned to his people, in the year 790.
The saint’s body was conveyed to the Parthenit monastery in the Crimea, at the foot of Mount Ayu-Dag, where the saint once lived in the large church he built in honor of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul.
Saint John, Bishop of the Goths is also commemorated on May 19.
Appearance of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God
According to ancient tradition, the wonderworking icon of Tikhvin is one of several painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist. The icon was taken from Jerusalem to Constantinople in the fifth century, where it was enshrined in the Church of Blachernae, which was built especially for this purpose.
In 1383, seventy years before the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Turks, fishermen on Lake Ladoga in the principality of Novgorod the Great witnessed the icon miraculously hovering over the lake’s waters amidst a radiant light. According to an early sixteenth century Russian manuscript, “The Tale of Miracles of the Icon of the Tikhvin Mother of God,” the Theotokos herself decided that her image should leave Constantinople, perhaps in anticipation of the impending fall of the Byzantine Empire.
Shortly after its miraculous appearance, the icon was discovered in several neighboring towns, including the village of Motchenitsy on the bank of the Tikhvinka River, before it finally appeared near the town of Tikhvin. A wooden church dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos was built on the site of the icon’s final resting place. Miraculously, the icon survived a number of fires.
In the early sixteenth century, through the zeal of Great Prince Basil Ivanovich, a stone church was built to replace the original wooden structure. In 1560, by order of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, a men’s monastery was established near the church and enclosed with a stone wall.
In 1613-1614, the Swedish army, having seized Novgorod, made several attempts to destroy the monastery. The countless prayers offered to the Theotokos before the icon were heard, and the monastery was spared. On one occasion, after monks had been alerted to the approaching Swedish army, they decided to flee and to take the icon with them. But the monks soon discovered that they could not remove the icon from its shrine. Seeing this as a sign of the Theotokos’ protection, the monks decided not to abandon the monastery, begging the Theotokos to spare them and their beloved spiritual home. To their amazement, a large Muscovite army appeared to defend the monastery.
When the Swedes encountered the army, they retreated immediately. Word of this miracle spread rapidly, and imperial emissaries soon visited the monastery. Accompanied by a copy of the wonderworking icon, they set off for the village of Stolbovo, 33 miles from Tikhvin, where they concluded a peace treaty with the Swedes on February 10, 1617. Afterwards, the copy of the icon was taken to Moscow and enshrined in the Kremlin’s Dormition Cathedral. Later, the same icon was placed in the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) cathedral in Novgorod at the request of the city’s faithful, who also found themselves under attack by the Swedes. Once again, through the intercession of the Theotokos, the city was spared.
Over the centuries, the icon’s fame spread far and wide. Copies of the wonderworking icon began to adorn churches throughout the land. Some of these copies also proved to be sources of miracles, and it was not uncommon to find the faithful praying before the icon to seek healing for children who were ill.
No fewer than 24 processions with the icon were celebrated each year at the Tikhvin Monastery, where the icon was enshrined. A decorative cover, or “riza,” adorned the icon, exposing only the faces and hands of the Holy Virgin and Christ child. Numerous precious stones studded the riza, and many of the faithful, desiring to express thanksgiving for prayers answered through the Theotokos’ intercession, affixed precious jewelry to the riza.
Most miraculous is the fact that the icon was preserved from destruction or sale after the Russian Revolution, which ushered in a 74-year persecution of the Church. During the 1920s, the communist government demanded that the Russian Orthodox Church turn over countless icons and other precious liturgical items, which through the nationalization of private property were considered the property of “the people.” Many of these sacred items were sold, allegedly to raise money to feed the Russian and Ukrainian population which was afflicted by famine.
During the World War II German occupation, the Nazis removed the icon from the Tikhvin Monastery, from where it was taken to Pskov and subsequently to Riga, Latvia. When the city was evacuated, Bishop John [Garklavs] of Riga, in whose care the icon was placed, took the icon to Bavaria, where it was venerated by Orthodox faithful who had been displaced because of the war. While Soviet agents had spotted the icon, Bishop John was permitted to take the icon to the United States in 1949, under the pretext that the icon in his care was a reproduction, the work of a simple monk, and that it was of little historic or monetary value. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Bishop John, who was later elevated to the rank of Archbishop, was elected to oversee the Diocese of Chicago, and the icon was regularly displayed and venerated in Chicago’s Holy Trinity Cathedral.
Bishop John frequently took the icon on pilgrimage to various places throughout the United States and Canada. After his retirement in the late 1970s and death on Palm Sunday in 1982, Archpriest Sergei Garklavs, Bishop John’s adopted son, became the caretaker of the icon. In 2003, over a decade after the fall of communism and the resurrection of the Russian Orthodox Church, the decision was made to return the precious icon to its original home.
The icon began its year-long journey to Russia at the 99th annual Pilgrimage to Saint Tikhon Monastery, South Canaan, Pennsylvania, May 23-26, 2003. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, Primate of the Orthodox Church in America, together with members of the Holy Synod of Bishops and guest hierarchs, greeted the icon, which was available for veneration by the faithful.
The icon follows the “Hodēgḗtria” model and is similar in style to the ancient Ivḗron icon of Our Lady. It differs in that the Christ child’s legs are crossed, while the sole of His foot is turned to the viewer. Several historic sources note that several other Hodēgḗtria icons of the Theotokos had been brought to Russia in the 1380s, during the rule of the saintly prince Demetrius Donskoy.
— Archpriest John Matusiak
“Seven Lakes” Icon of the Mother of God
The “Seven Lakes” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos shone forth with many miracles in the seventeenth century in the area of Kazan. It is similar to the Smolensk Icon (July 28).
“The Seven Lakes” Icon is also commemorated on July 28 and October 13.
“Neamts” Icon of the Mother of God
The Neamts Icon of the Mother of God was given as a gift by the Byzantine emperor Andronicus Paleologos to the Moldavian ruler Alexander the Voevod in 1399, and then placed into the Moldavian Neamts Ascension monastery.
One of the Moldavian princes gave a copy of the icon to a Russian landowner by the name of Chertkov. One of Chertkov’s descendants presented this copy to his village church in 1846. An inscription on the icon says that this is a faithful copy of the icon sent by the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus. However, the Emperor in 1399 was Manuel II Paleologos. One of his sons was named Andronicus, and perhaps he sent the icon to Moldavia.
At the Ascension monastery, many ascetics of the Russian Church became saints under the holy Elder, schema-archimandrite Paisius Velichkovsky (November 15), and also through the guidance of the Mother of God.
Icon of the Mother of God of Lydda or “the Roman”
The wonderworking Lydda Icon is mentioned in the service for the Kazan Icon (July 8 & October 22) in the third Ode of the Canon.
According to Tradition, the Apostles Peter and John were preaching in Lydda (later called Diospolis) near Jerusalem. There they built a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, then went to Jerusalem and asked her to come and sanctify the church by her presence. She sent them back to Lydda and said, “Go in peace, and I shall be there with you.”
Arriving at Lydda, they found an icon of the Virgin imprinted in color on the wall of the church (some sources say the image was on a pillar). Then the Mother of God appeared and rejoiced at the number of people who had gathered there. She blessed the icon and gave it the power to work miracles. This icon was not made by the hand of man, but by a divine power.
Julian the Apostate (reigned 361-363) heard about the icon and tried to eradicate it. Masons with sharp tools chipped away at the image, but the paint and lines just seemed to penetrate deeper into the stone. Those whom the emperor had sent were unable to destroy the icon. As word of this miracle spread, millions of people came to venerate the icon.
In the eighth century, Saint Germanus, the future Patriarch of Constantinople (May 12) passed through Lydda. He had a copy of the icon made, and sent it to Rome during the iconoclastic controversy. It was placed in the church of Saint Peter, and was the source of many healings. In 842, the reproduction was returned to Constantinople and was known as the Roman Icon (June 26).
The oldest sources of information for the Lydda Icon are a document attributed to Saint Andrew of Crete in 726, a letter written by three eastern Patriarchs to the iconoclast emperor Theophilus in 839, and a work of George the Monk in 886.
The icon still existed as late as the ninth century.
The Lydda Icon of the Mother of God is also commemorated on March 12.
Feast of All Saints of Georgia
Having examined the history of Georgia and the hagiographical treasures attesting to the faith of the Georgian nation, we become convinced that Heavenly Georgia— the legion of Georgian saints, extolling the Lord in the Heavenly Kingdom with a single voice—is infinitely glorious. It is unknown how many cleansed themselves of their earthly sins in merciless warfare with the enemy of Christ, or how many purified their souls in unheated cells through prayer, fasting, and ascetic labors.
To God alone are known the names of those ascetics, forgotten by history, who by their humble labors tirelessly forged the future of the Georgian Church and people.
St. George of the Holy Mountain wrote: “From the time we recognized the one true God, we have never renounced Him, nor have our people ever yielded to heresy.”
A decree of the Church Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi states: “We will not depart from thee, the Catholic Church which bore us in holiness, nor will we betray thee, our pride—Orthodoxy—to which we have always been faithful, for we have been granted the honor to know thee, the witness of the Truth Itself!” This relationship to Orthodoxy is the cornerstone of the life of every Georgian believer.
It is impossible to count the names of all those Christians who have been raised up from the earthly Church in Georgia to the heavens, let alone to describe all the godly deeds they have performed. For this reason December 11 has been set aside for the commemoration not only of the saints whose Lives are known to us but also of the nearly three hundred more whose names, but not stories, have been preserved as well.
Most Georgian people bear the name of a saint who is commemorated on this day, and they entreat the saint to intercede before the Lord in their behalf.
New Martyr David of Saint Anne's Skete
The Holy Monastic Martyr David was descended from the Kydonians of the town of Aivali (Αϊβαλί) in Asia Minor. The inhabitants of the town had a special relationship with Mount Athos, because there were two Athonite embassy churches in their city, one belonging to Ivḗron Monastery, and the other to Pantokrator Monastery. When Saint David left his hometown, he went to Mount Athos and lived near a fellow countryman, a brother of Saint Anne’s Skete, who later became a monk.
During his monastic life, Saint David was moved by divine zeal. He took the initiative, after receiving the blessing of his Elder, and visited Smyrna in order to collect money for the reconstruction of the ruined churches of the Transfiguration of the Savior and that of the Theotokos on Mount Athos. After completing the work on the two temples, he built two water tanks as well as a number of cells for the worshipers. He did not remain on Mount Athos, for he burned with the desire for martyrdom. He went to Magnesia in Asia Minor, where he bore witness to Christ, and mocked the Turks for their religion. They arrested him and beat him severely, and then he was expelled from their city.
Thus, without fulfilling his desire, he returned to the Holy Skete of Saint Anne, where he confessed to his Elder his earnest desire for martyrdom. His Spiritual Father, fearing the outcome of such an act, tried to dissuade him, but he did not succeed. Saint David went to Karyes and saw Metropolitan Pankratios, the former Bishop of Christopoulos, from whom he received a blessing to seek martyrdom.
Saint David traveled to Thessaloniki, where he was told of a monk from the Vatopaidi embassy church of Saint Demetrios, who had converted to Islam. Saint David attempted to confront this monk, but somehow the Turks had learned of his intention. The Turks arrested the Saint, and after they had beaten him, they handed him over to the judge for trial. The judge, fearing that Saint David might persuade the monk to abandon Islam and to confess Christ, ordered the Saint to be executed at once. That same night, June 26, 1813, Saint David suffered a martyric death by hanging.
The Monastic Martyr David is particularly honored at the Skete of Saint Anne on the Holy Mountain.