OUR FATHER METROPHANES, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE
Our Father Metrophanes, Archbishop of Constantinople, Mary & Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, Sophia of Thrace, The Mother of Orphans, Petroc, Abbot of Padstow
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 7:26-28; 8:1-2
Brethren, it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever. Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.
The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.
Saint Metrophanes, Patriarch of Constantinople, was a contemporary of Saint Constantine the Great (306-337). His father, Dometius, was a brother of the Roman emperor Probus (276-282). Seeing the falseness of the pagan religion, Dometius came to believe in Christ. During a time of terrible persecution of Christians at Rome, Saint Dometius set off to Byzantium with two of his sons, Probus and Metrophanes. They were instructed in the law of the Lord by Bishop Titus, a man of holy life. Seeing the ardent desire of Dometius to labor for the Lord, Saint Titus ordained him presbyter. After the death of Titus first Dometius (272-303) was elevated to the bishop’s throne, and thereafter his sons, Probus (303-315) and in 316 Saint Metrophanes.
The emperor Constantine once came to Byzantium, and was delighted by the beauty and comfortable setting of the city. And having seen the holiness of life and sagacity of Saint Metrophanes, the emperor took him back to Rome. Soon Constantine the Great transferred the capital from Rome to Byzantium and he brought Saint Metrophanes there. The First Ecumenical Council was convened in 325 to resolve the Arian heresy. Constantine the Great had the holy Fathers of the Council bestow upon Saint Metrophanes the title of Patriarch. Thus, the saint became the first Patriarch of Constantinople.
Saint Metrophanes was very old, and was not able to be present at the Council, and he sent in his place the chorepiscopos (vicar bishop) Alexander. At the close of the Council the emperor and the holy Fathers visited with the ailing Patriarch. At the request of the emperor, the saint named a worthy successor to himself, Bishop Alexander. He foretold that Paul (at that time a Reader) would succeed to the patriarchal throne after Alexander. He also revealed to Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria that his successor would be the archdeacon Saint Athanasius.
Saint Metrophanes reposed in the year 326, at age 117. His relics rest at Constantinople in a church dedicated to him.
It should be noted that the Canons to the Holy Trinity in the Midnight Office in the Octoechos were not composed by this Metrophanes, but by Bishop Metrophanes of Smyrna, who lived in the middle of the ninth century.
The righteous sisters Martha and Mary were believers in Christ even before He raised their brother Saint Lazarus (October 17) from the dead. After the murder of the holy Archdeacon Stephen a persecution against the Jerusalem Church broke out, and Righteous Lazarus was cast out of Jerusalem. The holy sisters then assisted their brother in the proclaiming of the Gospel in various lands.
Saints Martha and Mary are also commemorated on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women.
Saint Methodius, Igumen of Peshnosha was the founder of the Peshnosha monastery. In his youth he went to Saint Sergius of Radonezh and spent several years under his guidance. Later on, with the blessing of Saint Sergius, he withdrew to a solitary place and built himself a cell in the forest beyond the River Yakhroma. Soon several disciples came to him in this marshy place, wishing to imitate his life. Saint Sergius visited him and advised him to build a monastery and church. Saint Methodius himself toiled at the construction of the church and the cells, “on foot carrying” wood along the river, and from that time the monastery began to be called “the Peshnosha.”
In 1391 Saint Methodius became igumen of this monastery. At times he withdrew two versts from the monastery and struggled in prayer. Here also Saint Sergius came to him for spiritual conversation, therefore this spot became known as “Beseda” (“Conversation-place”).
Saint Methodius died in 1392 and was buried at the monastery he founded. A church dedicated to Saints Sergius of Radonezh and Methodius of Peshnosha was built over his relics in 1732. The beginning of his local veneration dates from the late seventeenth—early eighteenth centuries.
Saint Methodius is also commemorated on June 14.
The Holy Martyrs Frontasius, Severinus, Severian, and Silanus suffered for Christ under the emperor Claudius (41-54). They had been sent to preach the Word of God in southern Gaul (now France) by Bishop Frontonus of Petragorium. The governor, a pagan named Squiridonus, arrested them and demanded that they renounce Christ. But the martyrs firmly confessed their faith, saying they had but one desire, to either live or die for Christ. The enraged Squiridonus ordered that the saints be taken out before the city, tied to pillars, and have nails thrust into their heads like a crown of thorns. After this they were beheaded.
Tradition says that the holy martyrs continued to live by the power of God. They picked up their heads and went to the church of the Mother of God, where the holy bishop Frontonus, who had sent them preaching, was at prayer. Placing their heads at the feet of the bishop, they crossed themselves and died.
The Holy Martyr Concordius, son of the presbyter Gordian, was raised in piety and faith in Christ, and therefore Bishop Pius of Rome made him a subdeacon. Together with his father, Saint Concordius fasted and prayed, and he generously distributed alms to the needy. With the permission of his father he settled not far from Rome with his kinsman Eutychius, spending his days in prayer and good deeds. The report of his pious life reached Torquatus, the head of the Tussa region. He summoned the saint and urged him to renounce Christ, promising to make him a priest of the pagan gods.
Saint Concordius in turn urged Torquatus to turn to the true God, Jesus Christ. They beat the martyr and threw him in prison. Bishop Anthimus, a friend of Torquatus, asked him to release the prisoner to him. Saint Concordius lived with him for a while and was ordained presbyter. When Torquatus again summoned the saint and asked him what he thought about his life, the saint replied that life, for him, is Christ. They bound him and locked him up in prison, chaining him to the wall by his neck and hands.
Three days later Torquatus sent his assistant to the prison, ordering the martyr to offer sacrifice to the gods, or be condemned to death. The saint cried out, “Glory to Thee, Lord Jesus Christ,” and spat on the idol of Zeus carried by the soldiers. For this, he was beheaded around the year 175. His relics rest in Italy, not far from the city of Spoleto.
The Hieromartyr Astius was bishop of the city of Dyrrachium (Macedonia) during the time of the emperor Trajan (98-117), a persecutor of Christians. The saint once had a dream, a foreboding of his impending suffering and death for Christ. He was arrested and beaten fiercely with leaden rods and oxhide whips, but Saint Astius did not renounce Christ. They smeared his body with honey, so as to increase his suffering with the stings of hornets and flies, and crucified him. The martyr’s body was reverently buried by Christians.
Saint Zosima, Bishop of Babylon, was born in Cilicia (Asia Minor). While still a youth he left the world and settled on Mount Sinai, and later he withdrew to a more solitary place in Lebanon. One time he encountered an elderly ascetic, who foretold that he would be bishop in Babylon. When Zosima returned to Sinai, he was sent on an errand to Alexandria. The Patriarch of Alexandria made him Bishop of Babylon, and into old age he wisely guided his flock. Sensing the approach of death, he returned to Sinai and peacefully fell asleep in the Lord (5th century).
Our venerable Mother Sophia was born in the province of Ainos in southeastern Thrace , and was the daughter of pious Christian parents. When she was of age, her parents arranged for her to be married. She and her husband had six children. Though she was occupied with worldly cares and responsibilities, she still kept the commandments of God and lived a virtuous life. She loved to attend the Church services, and so she progressed in virtue.
After sickness carried off Sophia's husband and all her children in succession, she did not despair, but became even more devoted to God. Within a period of twenty years, she adopted one hundred children, and raised them to love God. Because of this, she is sometimes called Saint Sophia the Mother of Orphans. She sold her property and gave the proceeds to the poor and to widows. She led an austere life, eating nothing but bread and water. She preferred to do without the necessities of life herself rather than allow any poor person to leave her home empty-handed. The Psalms of the Prophet-King David were always on her lips, and tears flowed continuously from her eyes.
Because of her humility and her love for the poor, God blessed her in the following way. In her home there was a container of wine which she reserved for the poor. She noticed that no matter how much she took from the container, it remained full. However, as soon as she told someone about the miracle and glorified God, the container became empty. Saint Sophia became sorrowful, believing that the wine had failed because of her unworthiness. Therefore, she increased her ascetical labors until her health suffered.
Sensing that the end of her life was near, she received the monastic tonsure. From that time, she devoted herself completely to the worship of God. Saint Sophia reposed peacefully at the age of fifty-three. It is not known when she lived.
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The graves of Saints Zoticus, Atallus, Camisius and Philip were discovered in 1971.
Lesser Scythia (modern Romania), between the Danube and the Black Sea in the northeastern territory of the Roman Empire, was a place of exile or death for Christians who refused to worship the pagan gods. During the persecutions of Decius (249-251), Diocletian and Maximilian (284-305), and Licinius (308-324) thousands of people died there from cold, hunger, or torture. The relics of those who endured martyrdom because they openly proclaimed their faith in Christ were taken by Christians and buried in secret places. Accounts of the lives and sufferings of these holy martyrs were written and preserved so they would not be forgotten. When the persecutions ended, the relics were moved from their temporary resting places and placed in special crypts (martyria). Churches were built over these crypts, and the ruins of some of them may be seen today in Dobrogea.
In September 1971 a creek overflowed its banks near the village of Niculitsel in the county of Tulcea, revealing one of the oldest of these martyria. The crypt, which is made of bricks, is divided into two rooms, one on top of the other. In the upper room, the relics of four martyrs were found in a single wooden coffin. All had been decapitated. The heads of three martyrs were found atop their necks, while the head of the fourth martyr was resting on his chest. An inscription on the left wall reads: “Christ’s martyrs.” The names of the four martyrs (Zoticus, Attalus, Camasius, and Philip) were scratched into the right wall.
According to the records which have been preserved, these martyrs were tried by the Roman authorities of Noviodunum (modern Isaccea) and sentenced to death. They were beheaded, then buried at Niculitsel. The exact date of their martyrdom is not known. Some believe that they were slain early in the fourth century during the persecutions of Diocletian or Licinius. Others, however, think the four men may have been martyred north of the Danube during the persecution of the Gothic king Athanaric (370-372) against the Christians.
About a hundred fragments of the bones of two men (aged between 45-50) were found in the lower crypt. It is thought that they died during the persecution of Decius, and then their relics were reinterred at Niculitsel around 370-380. The names of these martyrs are not known.
The Syrian Martyrologion and Saint Jerome’s Martyrologion give June 4 as the date of the martyrs’ execution. The Synaxaria list these four martyrs along with six others: Eutychius, Quirinus, Julia, Saturninus, Ninita, Fortunio. Twenty-five others were also beheaded with these martyrs, but are not named.
The relics of these holy martyrs were moved to the Cocosh Monastery in 1971, where they are venerated by the faithful.
The holy New Martyr Archbishop Andronicus of Perm was an outspoken critic of the Communist decree which ordered the separation of Church and State. Upon reading the Moscow Overland Assembly’s instructions on the matter, Archbishop Andronicus ordered his archdeacon to anathematize the Communists. The Archbishop was arrested, shot by two members of the Perm CHEKA, then buried on the road from Perm to Motoviliha.
Bishop Theophanes, an assistant to Archbishop Andronicus, was also arrested about this time. He was then drowned in the River Kama. When they learned of the execution of the Perm bishops, the Moscow Church Assembly sent a special commission, headed by Bishop Basil of Chernigov, to investigate their murder. The Communists, however, took steps to conceal the facts from the investigators.
As the members of the commission were on their way back to Moscow, their train was attacked by Red soldiers somewhere between Perm and Viatka. Bishop Basil and the others were killed, and their bodies were thrown from the coach. The bodies were buried by peasants, but were later dug up and burned by the Communists when pilgrims began flocking to the graves.
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