4TH SATURDAY AFTER PENTECOST
The Holy Hieromartyr Pancratius, Bishop of Tauromenium in Sicily, Dionysios the Orator, Metrophanes of Mount Athos, Methodios the Hieromartyr, Bishop of Lampis, Patermuthius the Monk, Euthymios of Karelia, Michael Paknanas the Gardener
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 6:11-17
Brethren, you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.
At that time, when Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and served him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.
Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead." And when he entered the boat, his disciples followed him.
The Hieromartyr Pancratius, Bishop of Taormina, was born when our Lord Jesus Christ yet lived upon the earth.
The parents of Pancratius were natives of Antioch. Hearing the good news of Jesus Christ, Pancratius’ father took his young son with him and went to Jerusalem in order to see the great Teacher for himself. The miracles astonished him, and when he heard the divine teaching, he then believed in Christ as the Son of God. He became close with the disciples of the Lord, especially with the holy Apostle Peter. It was during this period that young Pancratius got to know the holy Apostle Peter.
After the Ascension of the Savior, one of the Apostles came to Antioch and baptized the parents of Pancratius together with all their household. When the parents of Pancratius died, he left behind his inherited possessions and went to Pontus and began to live in a cave, spendng his days in prayer and deep spiritual contemplation. The holy Apostle Peter, while passing through those parts, visited Pancratius at Pontus. He took him along to Antioch, and then to Sicily, where the holy Apostle Paul then was. There the holy Apostles Peter and Paul made Saint Pancratius Bishop of Taormina in Sicily.
Saint Pancratius toiled zealously for the Christian enlightenment of the people. In a single month he built a church where he celebrated divine services. The number of believers quickly grew, and soon almost all the people of Taormina and the surrounding cities accepted the Christian Faith.
Saint Pancratius governed his flock peacefully for many years. However, pagans plotted against the saint, and seizing an appropriate moment, they fell upon him and stoned him. Thus, Saint Pancratius ended his life as a martyr.
The saint’s relics are in the church named for him in Rome. He is also commemorated on February 9.
The Hieromartyr Cyril, Bishop of Gortyna, was bishop at Gortyna on the island of Crete for 50 years. He suffered either under the emperor Decius (249-251), or according to other historical sources, the emperor Maximian (284-305).
Brought to trial before a governor named Lucius, who demanded that he offer sacrifice to idols, the holy Elder steadfastly confessed his faith in Christ and refused to fulfill the soul-destroying command. The governor sentenced Saint Cyril to burning, but the flames did not touch him. Seeing this miracle, many pagans came to believe in Christ. Lucius himself offered up praise to the Christian God and set the saint free.
Saint Cyril continued with his preaching and led many pagans to Christ, but also he grieved that he had not been allowed to suffer for the Savior. It was reported to the governor that Saint Cyril would not cease his preaching, and that he continued to convert people from the darkness of paganism to the light of Christ. Hearing the sentence against him, Saint Cyril rejoiced that he was to be granted a martyr’s death for Truth, and the 84-year-old Elder willingly placed his head beneath the sword.
The Hosiomartyrs Patermuthius and Coprius, and the Martyr Alexander suffered under the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363).
Patermuthius at first was a pagan and also the head of a band of robbers, but then he repented, was baptized and withdrew into the desert. The monk devoted all the rest of his life to attending the sick and burying the dead. For his love of toil and efforts, Patermuthius received from God the gift of wonderworking.
The priest Coprius was an eyewitness of the doings of the venerable Patermuthius and recorded his life and miracles. Saint Coprius narrated this Life to the presbyter Rufinus, who in turn transmitted it to Palladius, Bishop of Hellenopolis, who included the account in his book, the Lausiac History.
Once Saint Coprius entered into a debate with the heretic Manicheus, and seeing that he could not prevail against him in dispute, he suggested that a large fire be lit, and that they should go into it together. In this way, the Lord Himself would decide whose was the true Faith. Manicheus refused to go in first, but Coprius went into the fire, and standing in the midst of the flames, he remained unharmed. The people glorified the faith of Coprius, and they threw the heretic into the fire. He jumped out all scorched and tried to flee, but they caught him and again cast him into the flames. Saint Coprius then calmed the crowd and let Manicheus go.
When the emperor heard about the Egyptian hermits, he ordered them to be brought to him, and he tried to turn them to paganism. He said that he had formerly served Christ, but had learned that only the pagan gods could provide salvation.
Coprius was deceived by these words of the emperor and he denied Christ. By the prayers and tears of his Elder he came to understand what a mistake he had made. He repented and again confessed himself a Christian. The emperor became enraged and ordered that Coprius be tortured. Patermuthius encouraged his brother monk to be brave and endure. One of the soldiers, whose name was Alexander, saw the terrible sufferings of Coprius, and believed in Christ. He was sentenced to be burned alive. Saints Patermuthius and Coprius were beheaded by the sword.
Saint Theodore, Bishop of Edessa, was born in the Syrian city of Edessa. All his life the holy saint was a bright witness of the great deeds of God, glorified in His Saints.
At twelve years of age, after he lost his parents and gave away his inheritance to the poor, he went to Jerusalem, where he was tonsured at the Lavra of the Saint Savva the Sanctified. After twelve years of fervent monastic obedience and then another twenty-four years of full seclusion and great abstinence, the Lord called the valiant ascetic to be a bishop, so that he might enlighten the world. After the death of the Bishop of Edessa, no worthier successor was found than Theodore, and with the mutual consent of the Patriarchs of Antioch and Jerusalem, and of the clergy and laity, this fine man was chosen bishop.
It was not easy for Saint Theodore to forsake his solitude, but he submitted himself to the will of God and undertook his pastoral guidance of the Edessa Church. This occurred during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Michael and his mother Theodora (842-855). At the time of Saint Theodore’s episcopal consecration, there occurred a great miracle. The people beheld a dove, white as snow, flying about beneath the cupola of the church, which then alit upon the head of the newly-made bishop.
Saint Theodore devoted all his abilities to the governance of his flock. He was a model for the faithful in word, in life, in love. By the good example of his holy ascetic life, he guided the flock entrusted to him by God, onto the path of salvation. Theodore exerted much effort in the struggle with heretics, and with a firm hand he guarded the Church from temptations and false teachings. By his consolation and support for Saint Theodore, the clairvoyant Elder Theodosius the Stylite also served the spiritual community while laboring in asceticism not far from the city, near the monastery of the holy Great Martyr George.
With the blessing of the Elder, Saint Theodore journeyed to Baghdad to the caliph Mavi to complain about unjust measures against the Orthodox. Having come to Mavi, the saint found him seriously ill. Calling on the help of the Lord, the holy bishop threw a bit of earth from the Sepulchre of the Lord into a vessel of water and gave it to the caliph to drink, and the sick one was healed. The grateful Mavi, favorably disposed towards the saint, happily heard his teachings. Finally, together with three close associates, he accepted holy Baptism with the name John.
Shortly afterwards for his open confession of faith in Christ before the Moslems, the caliph John was killed with his three associates. Having appeared in a dream simultaneously to Saint Theodore and to Theodosius the Stylite, he said that he had been granted to suffer for Christ, and was numbered among the ranks of the Martyrs. He promised that soon he would meet them in the Kingdom of Heaven. This was an indication to the saint of God that his own end was approaching. In 848, again in solitude at the Lavra of Saint Savva the Sanctified, he peacefully departed to the Lord. Saint Theodore has left Christians his edifying writings. The Life of Saint Theodore of Edessa was popular reading in Rus during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and was preserved in many manuscripts.
Saint Dionysius the Rhetor and his disciple Saint Metrophanes lived toward the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century, but it is not known where they were born. Saint Dionysius received the monastic tonsure at the famous Studion Monastery in Constantinople, where he and Saint Metrophanes lived. Desiring a more intensive life of prayer and solitude, the two saints left the monastery of their repentance and journeyed to the peninsula of Athos, establishing themselves in a cell near Karyes. There they devoted themselves to prayer, fasting, and vigilance.
Saint Dionysius was distinguished for his virtue and wisdom, which drew many disciples to him. Training others in the monastic life left him with very little time for his own spiritual struggles, and with so many people around him his soul was not at peace. Therefore, Saint Dionysius and Saint Metrophanes proceeded into the desert of Mount Athos in search of even greater solitude. Somewhere between Saint Anne’s and Katounakia, they found a cave and made it their abode. This would be the future site of Little Saint Anne’s Skete, and they were the first to settle at this place. In that small and humble cave, they lived a godly life which was equal to that of the angels. In their spiritual struggles they fought against the stomach’s need for food, and against the body’s need for sleep. They restricted not only the types of food they ate, but also the amount they consumed at meals. By limiting the amount of time for sleep, they were able to devote themselves more to repentance and prayer.
Saint Dionysius and Saint Metrophanes were esteemed as learned men, but they attained even greater wisdom in the true philosophy of monasticism, which has been called “a life according to the Gospel.” They made such progress in the monastic life, excelling in virtue and holiness, that they became teachers of many holy ascetics.
By voluntarily humbling themselves, these saints were exalted by God, acquiring the richest spiritual gifts and the grace of the Holy Spirit. Just as no one lights a candle and then covers it, or puts it under a bed, “but sets it on a candlestick, that those who enter in may see the light” (Luke 8:16), so the Lord did not permit the virtue of these saints to remain hidden. The light of their holy life so shone before men that those who beheld it glorified God (Matt. 5:16). Like all-luminous lamps, the saints shone forth on the Holy Mountain with the radiance of their holiness.
Later, Saint Metrophanes, with the blessing of the Athonite Fathers and of his Elder Saint Dionysius, was asked to leave Mount Athos for a time in order to preach the Word of God in the neighboring villages. After he had fulfilled this obedience he returned to the Holy Mountain.
Saint Dionysius wrote a book called KOUVARAS, which was a guide on how to benefit and train the brethren. The manuscript is preserved in the Skete’s library. Saint Dionysius taught the art of inner attention and mental prayer, and was himself proficient in them. He rendered many writings of the Holy Fathers into a simpler form of Greek so that ordinary people could understand them. Some of these have been printed in Greek theological publications in modern times. Many of his writings still remain unpublished, however.
According to the ever-memorable Father Gerasimus of Little Saint Anne’s, the twentieth century hymnographer of the Great Church (Constantinople) who composed more than 2,000 services (including the service in honor of Saint Dionysius and Saint Metrophanes), Hieromonk Dionysius fell asleep in the Lord on October 6, 1606, and his disciple Saint Metrophanes reposed shortly thereafter. At Little Saint Anne’s, however, both Saint Dionysius and Saint Metrophanes are commemorated on July 9. A church was built in 1956 at the site of their cave, and was dedicated to these saints.
According to Tradition, Saint Dionysius the Rhetor is to be depicted with straight posture, a wide forehead, a large mustache, and a square beard.
The Koloch Icon of the Mother of God manifested itself in the year 1413 during the reign of Basil I, 15 versts from the city of Mozhaisk, in the vicinity of Koloch in the Smolensk governia. A peasant of this village by the name of Luke found the holy icon and took it to his home. One of his household was paralyzed. The sick one put his forehead to the icon with faith and received complete healing.
This became known through the surrounding area, and many of the suffering began to flock to the wonderworking icon, and they received help from the Mother of God. Luke afterwards took the icon to Mozhaisk, and from there to Moscow. At the capital, Metropolitan Photius, together with a gathering of clergy and a multitude of the people, met the holy icon. As the icon was carried through Moscow many of the sick were healed of their infirmities. Later they returned the icon to Mozhaisk.
At the place where the icon appeared, a church was built in honor of the Mother of God. Here the holy icon was housed.
With the offerings of the peasant Luke and other Orthodox, Prince Andrew Dimitrievich built a monastery on this site called the Kolochsk or Mozhaisk.
The Cyprus Icon of the Mother of God belongs to the Panachrana type. In this icon the Mother of God is depicted sitting on a throne with the Divine Infant in Her arms. On either side of Her is an angel.
The prototype of this holy icon manifested itself in the year 392 on the island of Cyprus at the tomb of Righteous Lazarus, the friend of Christ (October 17), and is kept there in a monastery. Renowned copies of the Cyprus Icon are at the Moscow’s Dormition Cathedral, and in the Nikolo-Golutvin church in the village of Stromyn, Moscow diocese (Commemorated on the Sunday of Orthodoxy).
During the week of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the Greek Synaxarion has an account of an icon which is probably the Cyprus Icon. On the island of Cyprus a certain Arab was passing by a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos. In order to display his hatred for Christianity, the man shot an arrow at an icon of the Mother of God which hung by the gate. The arrow struck the Virgin’s knee, from which blood began to flow. Overcome with fear, the Arab spurred his horse and rode for home, but was struck dead before he could get there. In this way, he was punished for his impiety.
Other days commemorating the Cyprus Icon are the Day of the Holy Spirit, and April 20. Some copies of the Cyprus Icon have additional names such as “Cleansing,” “Knife,” and “Hawk.”
The Cyprus Icon called “Hawk” was so named because of the way it was discovered. One day, the Christian ruler of Cyprus was hunting with his trained hawk. The hawk became tangled in a thicket while diving after another bird, and the ruler ordered the thicket to be cut away so that the hawk could be rescued. His servants rescued the hawk and also discovered an icon of the Mother of God in the thicket. The ruler later built a monastery on the site.
The “Cleansing” Cyprus Icon was in another monastery on Cyprus, and was famous for healing many people with diseases of the eyes.
The “Stromyn” Cyprus Icon became famous in 1841. An eighteen-year-old girl from Stromyn, a village not far from Moscow, was close to death from an illness. In a dream she saw the Cyprus Icon standing over the entrance to the church, and a voice came from the icon: “Take me into your home and have the priest serve a Molieben with the Blessing of Water, and you will be cured.”
The sick girl was brought to the church and finally located the icon after a long search. The girl obeyed the command of the Most Holy Theotokos, and after the Molieben she felt strong enough to carry the icon back to the church herself. Shortly thereafter, she was completely healed. The “Stromyn” Cyprus Icon continued to work miracles of healing, which the rector of the church reported to the holy Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow (November 19).