THE SUNDAY OF ALL SAINTS
The Sunday of All Saints, Thaddeus (Jude) the Apostle & Brother of Our Lord, Holy Martyr Zosima, Our Righteous Father Zenonus, Paisius the Great of Egypt
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 11:33-40; 12:1-2
Brethren, all the saints through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, received promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering over deserts and mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
MATTHEW 10:32-33; 37-38; 19:27-30
The Lord said to his disciples, “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny him before my Father who is in heaven. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Then Peter said in reply, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”
The Sunday following Pentecost is dedicated to All Saints, both those who are known to us, and those who are known only to God. There have been saints at all times, and they have come from every corner of the earth. They were Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, Monastics, and Righteous, yet all were perfected by the same Holy Spirit.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to rise above our fallen state and to attain sainthood, thereby fulfilling God’s directive to “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44, 1 Peter 1:16, etc.). Therefore, it is fitting to commemorate All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost.
This feast may have originated at an early date, perhaps as a celebration of all martyrs, then it was broadened to include all men and women who had borne witness to Christ by their virtuous lives, even if they did not shed their blood for Him.
Saint Peter of Damascus, in his “Fourth Stage of Contemplation,” mentions five categories of saints: Apostles, Martyrs, Prophets, Hierarchs, and Monastic Saints (Philokalia [in English] Vol. 3, p.131). He is actually quoting from the Octoechos, Tone 2 for Saturday Matins, kathisma after the first stichology.
Saint Νikόdēmos of the Holy Mountain (July 14) adds the Righteous to Saint Peter’s five categories. The list of Saint Νikόdēmos is found in his book The Fourteen Epistles of Saint Paul (Venice, 1819, p. 384) in his discussion of I Corinthians 12:28.
The hymnology for the feast of All Saints also lists six categories: “Rejoice, assembly of the Apostles, Prophets of the Lord, loyal choirs of the Martyrs, divine Hierarchs, Monastic Fathers, and the Righteous….”
Some of the saints are described as Confessors, a category which does not appear in the above lists. Since they are similar in spirit to the martyrs, they are regarded as belonging to the category of Martyrs. They were not put to death as the Martyrs were, but they boldly confessed Christ and came close to being executed for their faith. Saint Maximus the Confessor (January 21) is such a saint.
The order of these six types of saints seems to be based on their importance to the Church. The Apostles are listed first, because they were the first to spread the Gospel throughout the world.
The Martyrs come next because of their example of courage in professing their faith before the enemies and persecutors of the Church, which encouraged other Christians to remain faithful to Christ even unto death.
Although they come first chronologically, the Prophets are listed after the Apostles and Martyrs. This is because the Old Testament Prophets saw only the shadows of things to come, whereas the Apostles and Martyrs experienced them firsthand. The New Testament also takes precedence over the Old Testament.
The holy Hierarchs comprise the fourth category. They are the leaders of their flocks, teaching them by their word and their example.
The Monastic Saints are those who withdrew from this world to live in monasteries, or in seclusion. They did not do this out of hatred for the world, but in order to devote themselves to unceasing prayer, and to do battle against the power of the demons. Although some people erroneously believe that monks and nuns are useless and unproductive, Saint John Climacus had a high regard for them: “Angels are a light for monks, and the monastic life is a light for all men” (LADDER, Step 26:31).
The last category, the Righteous, are those who attained holiness of life while living “in the world.” Examples include Abraham and his wife Sarah, Job, Saints Joachim and Anna, Saint Joseph the Betrothed, Saint Juliana of Lazarevo, and others.
The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise (886-911). His wife, the Holy Empress Theophano (December 16) lived in the world, but was not attached to worldly things. She was a great benefactor to the poor, and was generous to the monasteries. She was a true mother to her subjects, caring for widows and orphans, and consoling the sorrowful.
Even before the death of Saint Theophano in 893 or 894, her husband started to build a church, intending to dedicate it to Theophano, but she forbade him to do so. It was this emperor who decreed that the Sunday after Pentecost be dedicated to All Saints. Believing that his wife was one of the righteous, he knew that she would also be honored whenever the Feast of All Saints was celebrated.
The “Unbreakable (or “Indestructible”) Wall” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is commemorated on the Sunday of All Saints. It is an XI century mosaic icon of the Blachernae type, above the main altar of Kiev's Holy Wisdom Cathedral. The Mother of God is depicted against a golden background, standing with upraised hands on a quadrangular gold platform.
In some Icons of this type [but not in the mosaic Icon], Christ is depicted within a mandorla, an oval or circle, symbolizing the glory of Heaven, or the Divine Light.
The Icon is called the "Unbreakable Wall" because for ten centuries it has remained intact, in spite of the fact that both Kiev's Holy Wisdom Cathedral and the city have been damaged several times. An ancient description of this Icon has been preserved: "A gigantic full-length portrait of the Theotokos…. She stands upon a gold stone, as an unshakable foundation for all who resort to her protection. Her chiton is blue, and she wears a scarlet belt. Hanging from it is an embroidered cloth with which she wipes away so many tears.
There are several possible sources for this Icon's title:
- The Prophet-King David wrote "God is in the midst of her (i. e. the city of God); she shall not be moved: God shall help her with his countenance" (Psalm 45/46:5).
- "Thus the Lord showed me; and behold, he stood upon a wall of adamant…" (Amos 7:7, LXX).
- The Akathist to the Mother of God, Ikos 12. "Rejoice, indestructible wall of kingdoms" – Ikos XII).
According to Kievan tradition, the wall of the church will not perish while the hands of the Mother of God are extended over it.
The Holy Apostle Jude, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, is descended from King David and Solomon, and was the son of Righteous Joseph the Betrothed (Sunday after the Nativity of the Lord) by his first wife.
The Holy Apostle John the Theologian writes in his Gospel, “… neither did his brethren believe in Him” (John. 7:5). Saint Theophylact, Archbishop of Bulgaria, explains this passage. He says that at the beginning of the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, Joseph’s sons, Jude among them, did not believe in His divine nature. Tradition says that when Saint Joseph returned from Egypt, he began to divide his possessions among his sons. He wanted to allot a share to Christ the Savior, born miraculously and incorruptibly from the All-Pure Virgin Mary. The brothers were opposed to this because Jesus was born of another mother. Only James, later called “The Brother of God,” offered to share his portion with Him.
Jude came to believe in Christ the Savior as the awaited Messiah, and he followed Him and was chosen as one of the twelve Apostles. Mindful of his sin, the Apostle Jude considered himself unworthy to be called the Lord’s brother, and in his Epistle he calls himself merely the brother of James.
The Holy Apostle Jude also had other names: the Evangelist Matthew terms him “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddeus” (Mt. 10:3). The Holy Evangelist Mark also calls him Thaddeus (Mark 3:18), and in the Acts of the Holy Apostles he is called Barsabas (Acts 15: 22). This was customary at that time.
After the Ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, Saint Jude traveled about preaching the Gospel. He propagated the faith in Christ at first in Judea, Galilee, Samaria and Idumaia, and later in the lands of Arabia, Syria and Mesopotamia. Finally, he went to the city of Edessa. Here he finished the work that was not completed by his predecessor, Saint Thaddeus, Apostle of the Seventy (August 21). There is a tradition that Saint Jude went to Persia, where he wrote his catholic Epistle in Greek. In the Epistle much profound truth was expressed in a few words.
Saint Jude’s Epistle speaks about the Holy Trinity, about the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, about the good and bad angels, and about the dread Last Judgment. The Apostle urges believers to guard themselves against fleshly impurity, to be diligent in prayer, faith and love, to convert the lost to the path of salvation, and to guard themselves from the teachings of heretics. He also says that it is not enough just to be converted to Christianity, but faith must be demonstrated by good works. He cites the rebellious angels and men punished by God (verse 6) to support this.
The Holy Apostle Jude died as a martyr around the year 80 near Mt. Ararat in Armenia, where he was crucified and pierced by arrows.
Saint Varlaam was known as Vasily Stepanovich Svoezemtsev in life, in monasticism he was given the name Varlaam Vazhsky.
Vasily Stepanovich was born around 1390 into the family of the Novgorod Boyar (his father was Stepan Vasilyevich). At baptism he received the name Vasily. He was married and had two sons, Ivan and Semyon. According to another version of his life, he had two daughters and eight sons. Vasily served as mayor of Novgorod until 1445. He also served as a representative of the Boyar family of Svoezemtsev, Novgorod.
In 1426, he founded Varlaamiev Vazhsky Monastery, where subsequently the town of Pinezhsky was founded. In 1456, Vasily Stepanovich was tonsured a monk and given the name Barlaam Vazhsky by the first Hegumen of St. John Theological Monastery. Saint Varlaam lived as a monastic for six years, and upon his death on June 19, 1462, he was buried next to the church of John the Theologian, which he had built.
The Martyr Zosimus lived in the city of Apollona (Thrace) during the reign of Trajan (89-117), the persecutor of Christians. The saint was consumed with the desire to become a Christian. When he heard about the start of a persecution of Christians, he left military service, was baptized, and devoted himself to prayer and good deeds.
It was reported to the prefect Domitianus of Antioch that Zosimus had betrayed the emperor by taking off his military insignia and attaching himself to Christians. At the trial, Saint Zosimus confessed his faith in Christ and refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. He was subjected to fierce torments but, strengthened by the grace of God, he did not feel the pain. The prefect gave orders to heat a copper bed red-hot and to put the saint on it. The martyr made the Sign of the Cross, laid down on the bed, but remained unharmed.
Departing the city, Domitianus gave orders to place iron sandals with sharp nails in the soles on the martyr’s feet, and to have Zosimus follow after him. The Lord gave Saint Zosimus the strength to follow after the horses.
The martyr was locked in prison, where they tormented him with hunger and thirst, but an angel of the Lord fortified him with bread and water. Saint Zosimus still refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Finally, he was beheaded, and surrendered his soul to God.
Saint Paisius the Great lived in Egypt. His parents, Christians, distributed generous alms to all the needy.
After the death of her husband his mother, on the suggestion of an angel, gave her young son Paisius to the clergy of the church.
The youth Paisius loved monastic life and spent his time in one of the Egyptian sketes. Renouncing his own will, he lived under the spiritual guidance of Saint Pambo (July 18), finishing all the tasks assigned him. The Elder said that a new monk in particular needs to preserve his sight, in order to guard his senses from temptation. Paisius, heeding the instruction, went for three years with his eyes cast downwards. The saintly ascetic read spiritual books, and he was known for his ascetic fasting and prayer. At first he did not eat any food for a week, then two weeks. Sometimes, after partaking of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, he survived without food for seventy days.
Saint Paisius went into the Nitrian desert in search of solitude. There he lived in a cave carved out by his own hands. The saint was granted a wondrous vision: the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to him that through his labors the Nitrian wilderness would become inhabited by ascetics. He asked the Lord where the monks would obtain the necessities of life in the desert. The Lord said that if they would fulfill all His commandments, He Himself would provide all their necessities, and would deliver them from demonic temptations and cunning.
In time, a number of monks and laymen gathered around Saint Paisius, and a monastery was established. The most important rule of Saint Paisius was that no one would do anything by his own will, but in all things would fulfill the will of his elders.
Since his tranquility was being disturbed by so many people, the saint withdrew to another cave farther away. Once, he was transported to a paradisical monastery and partook of the immaterial divine food. After his ascetic labors for salvation, the Lord granted His saint the gift of prescience and healing the souls of men.
One of his disciples, with the saint’s blessing, went to sell his handicrafts in Egypt. On the way he encountered a Jew, who told the simple-minded monk that Christ the Savior is not the Messiah, and that another Messiah will come. Confused, the monk said, “Maybe what you say is true,” but he did not attribute any particular significance to his words. When he returned, he saw that Saint Paisius would not acknowledge his arrival, and he asked the reason for his anger. The saint said, “My disciple was a Christian. You are not a Christian, for the grace of Baptism has departed from you.” The monk repented with tears, and begged to have his sin forgiven. Only then did the holy Elder pray and ask the Lord to forgive the monk.
A certain monk on his own initiative left the desert and moved near a city. There he had encounters with a woman, who hated and blasphemed Christ the Savior. Under her influence, he not only left the monastery, but also scorned faith in Christ, and finally he reached a state of total disbelief.
Once, through the blessed Providence of God, Nitrian monks came by his home. Seeing them, the sinner remembered his own former life and he asked the monks to ask Saint Paisius to pray for him to the Lord. On hearing the request, the saint prayed fervently, and his prayer was heard. The Lord, appearing to His saint, promised to forgive the sinner. Soon the seduced monk’s woman companion died, and he returned to the desert where, weeping and distressed for his sins, he began to labor at deeds of repentance.
Saint Paisius distinguished himself by his great humility, and performed ascetic deeds of fasting and prayer, but he concealed them from others as far as possible. When the monks asked which virtue is the highest of all, the saint replied, “Those which are done in secret, and about which no one knows.”
Saint Paisius died in the fifth century at a great old age, and he was buried by the monks. After some time his relics were transferred by Saint Isidore of Pelusium (February 4) to his own monastery and placed beside the relics of his friend Saint Paul, with whom Saint Paisius was particularly close during his life.
Saint John the Hermit was an ascetic in Palestine. He passed his days in fasting and prayer in a cave near Jerusalem. The uncovetous ascetic had only an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, before which a lampada was always lit.
The holy Elder often visited the holy places of Jerusalem, and Mount Sinai, and he went to pray at the graves of the holy martyrs and ascetics. Whenever he went out, the saint left the lampada burning before the icon of the Queen of Heaven and he asked Her blessing for the journey. When he returned after a month, or even after six months, the Elder found the lampada burning and filled with oil.
Once, he happened to go on a narrow trail, with two sides so overgrown with bushes, that it was impossible for two people on foot to pass each other. Suddenly, the saint saw a lion coming toward him. The beast stood up on its hind legs and cleared the way for the saint.
Once, a monk came to the cave to visit Saint John. Since he did not notice even the bare necessities, he asked Abba John why he lived in such poverty. The holy Elder said that his cave contained spiritual riches greater than any earthly treasures.
Saint John the Hermit reposed in the sixth century in extreme old age, and was numbered with the saints.
Saint Paisius of Hilandar was born in the year 1722 in Bansko into a pious family. One of his brothers, Laurence, was igumen of Hilandar Monastery, and another was noted as a generous benefactor of Orthodox temples and monasteries. Saint Paisius himself went through his obedience at Rila Monastery.
In 1745 at age twenty-three, Saint Paisius went to his brother in the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos, where he received monastic tonsure. The ascetic matured spiritually on the Holy Mountain. He studied Holy Scripture and he was found worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood.
In the year 1762 Saint Paisius wrote The History of the Slavo-Bulgarians, a book upholding the Christian Faith and awakening the national self-awareness of the subjugated Bulgarian nation.
Amid the darkness of foreign oppression the saint rekindled the lamp of Orthodoxy, lit formerly by Saints Cyril and Methodius (May 11). The time and place of the saint’s blessed end is unknown.
On June 26, 1962 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church under the presidency of His Holiness Patriarch Cyril, and with the participation of all the Metropolitans, expressed the indebtedness of the Church and country to Saint Paisius. They decreed that Paisius of Hilandar and Bulgaria be glorified as a saint, and directed that his memory be celebrated on June 19, “when, according to the Orthodox calendar, Saint Paisius the Great is commemorated.”
The name of Saint Paisius is borne by a state university in Plovdiv, and by many institutes and schools in other cities and villages of Bulgaria. This testifies to the deep veneration of the saint by the Bulgarian nation.
Saint Job, the first Patriarch of Moscow, was born into the family of pious tradesmen in Staritsa near Tver in the 1530s. His baptismal name was John.
After his death in 1607, the relics of Patriarch Job were buried by the western doors of the Dormition Church of the monastery in Staritsa. Many miracles took place at his grave.
In 1652, on the recommendation of Metropolitan Nikon of Novgorod, Tsar Alexei ordered that the relics of Saint Job and Saint Philip (January 9) be transferred to Moscow.
Metropolitan Barlaam of Rostov presided at the uncovering of Saint Job’s relics in Staritsa. The Patriarch’s incorrupt and fragrant relics became the source of healing for many who were afflicted by physical and mental illnesses.
On March 27 a procession set off for Moscow with the relics. On Monday of the sixth week of Lent (April 5), the relics of Patriarch Job were brought to the Passions Monastery. From there, the procession proceeded to the Kremlin, and the relics of the saint were placed in the Dormition cathedral. A few days later, Patriarch Joseph died and was buried next to Saint Job.
Saint Job has long been revered as a worker of miracles. The Altar Crosses in the churches of the Staritsa monastery and the Tver cathedral contained particles of his holy relics.