2ND SUNDAY OF MATTHEW
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, DAIRY, EGGS
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.
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 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.
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”.
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, 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.