1ST FRIDAY AFTER PENTECOST
1st Friday after Pentecost, Isaurus the Holy Martyr & his Companions of Athens, Manuel, Sabel, & Ishmael the Martyrs of Persia, Righteous Father Botolph, Abbot of the Monastery of Ikanhoe
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 2:14-28
Brethren, 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. But if you call yourself a Jew and rely upon the law and boast of your relation to God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed in the law, and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth – you then who teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical.
The Lord said, “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
Martyrs Manuel, Sabel, and Ismael, of Persia
The Holy Martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ismael, brothers by birth, were descended from an illustrious Persian family. Their father was a pagan, but their mother was a Christian, who baptized the children and raised them with a firm faith in Christ the Savior.
When they reached adulthood, the brothers entered military service. Representing the Persian King Alamundar, they were his emissaries in concluding a peace treaty with Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363). Julian received them with due honor and showed them his favor. However, when the brothers refused to take part in a pagan sacrifice, Julian became angry. He annulled the treaty and incarcerated the ambassadors of a foreign country like common criminals.
At the interrogation he told them that if they scorned the "gods" he worshipped, it would be impossible to reach any peace or accord between the two sides. The holy brothers answered that they were sent as emissaries of their King on matters of state, and not to argue about “gods.” Seeing their firmness of faith, the Emperor ordered the brothers to be tortured.
The hands and feet of the Holy Martyrs were nailed to trees. Later, they drove iron spikes into their heads, and wedged sharp splinters under their fingernails and toenails. During their torments, the Saints glorified God and prayed as though they did not feel the tortures.
Finally, the Holy Martyrs were beheaded, and Julian ordered their bodies to be burned. Suddenly, there was an earthquake. The ground opened up and the bodies of the Saints disappeared into the abyss. After Christians prayed fervently for two days, the earth gave up the bodies of the holy brothers, from which a sweet fragrance issued forth. Many of the pagans who had witnessed the miracle, came to believe in Christ and were baptized. This was in the year 362.
Christians reverently buried the bodies of the Holy Martyrs Manuel, Sabel and Ismael. Since that time the relics of the Holy Passion-Bearers have been glorified with miracles.
The following year, when he heard about the murder of his emissaries, and that Julian was marching against him with a vast army, the Persian King Alamundar mustered his army and started for the border of his domain. The Persians vanquished the Greeks in a great battle.
At this time, Saint Basil the Great (January 1) was praying before an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, upon which Saint Merkourios (November 24)1 was depicted as a soldier holding a spear. He asked God not to allow Emperor Julian to return from his war against the Persians, and resume his oppression of Christians. Suddenly, the image of the Holy Great Martyr Merkourios on the icon, next to the image of the Most Holy Theotokos, became invisible. Later, the image of Saint Merkourios reappeared with a bloodied spear.
As it happened, Julian was wounded by the spear of an unknown soldier, who disappeared. As he lay dying, the mortally wounded Julian cried out, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!”
The solemn commemoration of these saints is very ancient. In 395, thirty-three years after their death, Emperor Theodosios the Great built a church in honor of the Holy Martyrs at Constantinople, and Hieromonk Germanos (May 12), who later became the Patriarch of Constantinople, composed a Canon in honor of the holy brothers.
1 November 25 in Greek usage.
Martyr Nectan of Hartland
Saint Nectan was born in Wales and lived in the sixth century, but we know few details about his life. He was the oldest of the twenty-four children of Saint Brychan of Brecknock (April 6). While he was still living in Wales, God inspired him to imitate the example of Saint Anthony (January 17) and other ascetics, and to embrace the monastic life.
Seeking greater solitude, Saint Nectan and his companions left Wales, intending to settle wherever their boat happened to land. Divine providence brought them to the northern coast of Devonshire at Hartland, where they lived for several years in a dense forest. The saint’s family would visit him there on the last day of the year. Later, he relocated to a remote valley with a spring.
Once, Saint Nectan found a stray pig and returned it to its owner. In gratitude, the swineherd gave Saint Nectan two cows. The saint accepted the gift, but the cows were soon stolen by two robbers. Saint Nectan found the thieves who took the animals, and tried to preach to them about Christ. They became angry and cut off his head. Then the saint picked up his head and carried it for half a mile, laying it down near the spring by his cell. Seeing this, the man who killed Saint Nectan went out of his mind, but the other thief buried the Saint. From that time, miracles began to take place at Saint Nectan’s tomb.
In 937, on the eve of the Battle of Brunanburgh, a young man from Hartland who was in a tent near King Athelstan’s pavilion suddenly felt himself afflicted with the plague which was then destroying the English army. The young man wept and called upon God and Saint Nectan to help him. His cries were so loud that he woke the king and others around him.
Saint Nectan came to the young man just after midnight and touched the afflicted area of his body, healing him. In the morning, he was brought before the king and admitted that it was he who had disturbed Athelstan’s sleep. The king asked gently why he had been crying out during the night.
The young man explained that he felt himself stricken with the plague, and was afraid that he would die. Therefore, he entreated God and Saint Nectan to help him, and his prayer was answered.
Athelstan asked for more information about the life and martyrdom of Saint Nectan, which the young man provided. He also urged the king to turn to Saint Nectan with faith, promising that he would be victorious in battle if he did so.
The king promised to honor God and Saint Nectan, and so his faith was rewarded. Not only did he win the battle, but the plague disappeared and his soldiers recovered. The first time that King Athelstan visited Hartland in Devonshire, he donated property to the saint’s church. For the rest of his life, the king placed great confidence in the intercession of Saint Nectan.
Saint Nectan is the patron of Hartland, Devonshire. The fullest surviving Life dates from the twelfth century (See Vol. 5 of THE SAINTS OF CORNWALL by G. H. Doble for an English translation).
There is an Orthodox house chapel (Russian diocese of Sourozh) dedicated to Saint Simeon and Saint Anna at Combe Martin, N. Devon where Saint Nectan is venerated.
Saint Shalva of Akhaltsikhe
Saint Shalva of Akhaltsikhe was a brilliant military commander in the army of Queen Tamar and the prince of Akhaltsikhe. After his victory at Shamkori in the Ganja region, Shalva carried with him the flag of the caliph, as a sign of the invincibility of the Christian Faith, and conferred it, along with the wealth he had won, as an offering to the Khakhuli Icon of the Theotokos. For his selfless service, Queen Tamar honored him with the rank of commander-in-chief of the Georgian army.
During the reign of Queen Tamar’s daughter Rusudan (1222-1245), the armies of Sultan Jalal al-Din stormed into Georgia. Rusudan rallied the Georgian forces and appointed a new commander-in-chief by the name of John Atabeg.
Six thousand Georgians confronted a Muslim army of two hundred thousand near the village of Garnisi. Command of the advance guard was entrusted to the brave and valorous brothers Shalva and John of Akhaltsikhe, while John Atabeg remained with the main body of the army for the decisive battle.
The advance guard fought fearlessly, though the enemy’s army greatly surpassed it in number. The brothers fought with great devotion, hoping for support from the commander-in-chief, but John Atabeg was seized with envy—rather than fear—and never offered them his help. “O envy, source of every evil!” wrote one chronicler of the incident.
The enemy devastated the Georgian army, killing four thousand of its most valiant soldiers. Among them was John of Akhaltsikhe, whose brother Shalva was captured and delivered as a slave to Jalal al-Din.
Jalal al-Din was overjoyed to have the famed soldier and military leader brought before him. He received him with proper honor, offered him cities of great wealth, and promised him more if he agreed to convert to Islam.
Jalal al-Din sought with great persistence to convert Shalva to Islam, but his efforts were in vain—Shalva would not be converted, and nothing in the world would change his mind. So the sultan ordered that he be tortured to death.
After hours of torment failed to kill him, Jalal al-Din’s servants cast the half-dead martyr in prison, where he later reposed.
Venerable Botolph of Iken
No information available at this time.
Saint Hervius of Plouvien
No information available at this time.
Venerable Ananias the Iconographer
Saint Ananias was born in Russia and was tonsured in the monastery of Saint Antony the Roman at Novgorod. God endowed him with a gift for painting icons, and he exercised this talent for the glory of the Lord. The Venerable Ananias painted "marvelous icons of many holy wonderworkers." For thirty-three years, he never went beyond the fence of the monastery.
Historical records do not agree about the year of his repose. Some say that he went to the Lord in 1521, 1561, or 1581. His relics are buried in a hidden place at the Monastery.
Saint Ananias is commemorated on June 17, and on the third Sunday of Pentecost.