SYNAXIS OF THE TWELVE HOLY APOSTLES
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.”
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.