5TH THURSDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Aquila the Apostle among the 70, Our Holy Father Joseph the Confessor, Archbishop of Thessalonica, Nicodemus the Righteous of Mount Athos, Peter the New Hieromartyr and the four New Martyrs of Melissourgeio Kissamos, Justus the Martyr
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 16:1-16
Brethren, I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreai, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well. Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks; greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epainetos, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Greet Mary, who has worked hard among you. Greet Andronicos and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners; they are men of note among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Greet Ampliatos, my beloved in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulos. Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissos. Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaina and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, eminent in the Lord, also his mother and mine. Greet Asyncritos, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brethren who are with them. Greet Philologos, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
MATTHEW 12:46-50; 13:1-3
At that time, while Jesus was speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he entered a boat and sat there; and the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables.
Saint Aquila, Apostle of the 70: It is possible that he was a disciple of the Apostle Paul, a native of Pontus and a Jew, living in the city of Rome with his wife Priscilla (they are commemorated on February 13 on the Greek Calendar). During the reign of the emperor Claudius (41-54) all the Jews were banished from Rome, so Saint Aquilla and his wife were compelled to leave. They settled in Corinth. A short while later, the holy Apostle Paul arrived there from Athens preaching the Gospel. Having made the acquaintance of Aquila, he began to live at his house and labored together with him, making tents.
Having received Baptism from the Apostle Paul, Aquila and Priscilla bacame his devoted and zealous disciples. They accompanied the apostle to Ephesus. The Apostle Paul instructed them to continue the preaching of the Gospel at Ephesus, and he himself went to Jerusalem, in order to be present for the feast of Pentecost. At Ephesus, Aquila and Priscilla heard the bold preaching of a newcomer from Alexandria, the Jew Apollos. He had been instructed in the fundamentals of the Faith, but knew only the baptism of John the Forerunner. They called him over and explained more precisely about the way of the Lord.
After the death of the emperor Claudius, Jews were permitted to return to Italy, and Aquila and Priscilla then returned to Rome. The Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans recalls his faithful disciples, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who put forth their heads for my soul, whom I do not alone thank, but also all the Church of the Gentiles and the church of their household” (Rom. 16: 3-4). Saint Aquila did not long dwell in Rome: the Apostle Paul made him a bishop in Asia. Saint Aquila zealously labored at preaching the Gospel in Asia, Achaia and Heraklia. He converted pagans to Christ, he confirmed newly-converted Christians in the faith, he established presbyters and destroyed idols. Saint Priscilla constantly assisted him in the apostolic work. Saint Aquila ended his life a martyr: pagans murdered him. According to the Tradition of the Church, Saint Priscilla was killed together with him.
Saint Stephen of Makhra (Makhrishche) was a native of Kiev. He accepted monasticism at the monastery of the Caves, where he spent several years in deeds of obedience and prayer. The oppressions of the Latins compelled him to journey on to Moscow, where Great Prince Ivan II (1353-1359) graciously received him, permitting him to settle in the locale of Makhra not far from Gorodisch, 35 versts from the Sergiev monastery.
Having built himself a cell and spending his life at ascetic labors, and esteeming silence, he did not accept those wishing to join him. But then he yielded to the requests, and in this way, in 1358 he founded a monastery, in which he was established as igumen.
Living near his monastery were the Yurkov brothers. Fearing that the land which they ruled might be given over to the monastery, they threatened to kill the holy ascetic. The admonitions of the monk did not help. Saint Stephen then moved to a different place. Sixty versts north of Vologda, at the River Avnezha, he founded with his disciple Gregory a monastery in the name of the Holy Trinity. Great Prince Demetrius Ioannovich sent books and other liturgical items to the Avnezhsk wilderness, but the venerable Stephen sent them in turn to the Makhra monastery. Having returned to his monastery, Saint Stephen ordered life in it according to a cenobitic Rule.
When Saint Sergius of Radonezh moved from his monastery, in order to find a place for his ascetic deeds, Saint Stephen then received him, and gave the great ascetic Sergius his own disciple Simon, who knew the surrounding area quite well. Saint Sergius settled together with Simon on the island of Kirzhach, where he founded a monastery.
Saint Stephen was strict with himself and indulgent towards others. He worked for the monastery the hardest of all, he zealously guided the brethren to the ways of salvation with gentle and quiet talks, and he wore very old and coarse clothing.
The monk lived to extreme old age, became a schemamonk and died in 1406 on July 14. In 1550 during the construction of a new stone church in the name of the Holy Trinity, his holy relics were found to be incorrupt. They were glorified by blessings of help in various sicknesses and misfortunes for all who called on the name of the saint.
The Holy Martyr Justus was a Roman soldier, to whom the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord appeared in a vision. Justus believed in Christ and gave away his possessions to the poor. By decree of the official of Magnesia, Justus was taken to trial as a Christian. After various tortures, the holy martyr was thrown into a fire and gave up his soul to God, but the flames did not harm his body.
Saint Hellius lived and died in the fourth century. He was sent to a monastery when he was still a child. There he was raised in piety, temperance and chastity.
When he grew up, he went into the Egyptian desert, where through his ascetical struggles he attained great proficiency in the spiritual life. He was endowed with the gift of clairvoyance, and he knew all the thoughts and disposition of the monks conversing with him.
Great faith, simplicity of soul and deep humility allowed Saint Hellius to command wild animals. Once, the saint became tired while carrying a heavy load to the monastery. He prayed and called a wild donkey to carry his burden. The donkey meekly carried the load to the place and was set free to return to the wilderness. Another time, when Saint Hellius needed to cross a river and there was no boat, he summoned a crocodile from the water and crossed to the opposite shore while standing on its back.
One of the young novices of the monastery, whom Saint Hellius visited, asked him to take him along into the far desert. Saint Hellius warned him about the great work, exploits and temptations which inevitably beset all the hermits, but since the novice continued fervently to ask, he took him along. On the first night the novice, frightened by terrible visions, ran to Saint Hellius. The monk comforted and calmed him down and ordered him to return. Tracing the Sign of the Cross over the cave, the monk told the young hermit not to fear, because he would not be disturbed by these apparitions any more. Trusting the word of the saint, the novice decided to remain in solitude and afterwards attained such perfection that he, like his teacher Hellius, received food from an angel.
Saint Hellius peacefully entered the heavenly mansions after reaching an advanced age.
Saint Onesimus the Wonderworker was born in Caesarea in Palestine at the beginning of the fourth century, and entered a monastery in Ephesus.
Later, he founded a monastery at Magnesia and remained there for the rest of his life. He performed many miracles.
Saint Νikόdēmos of the Holy Mountain was born on the Greek island of Naxos in the year 1748, and was named Nicholas at his Baptism. At the age of twenty-six, he arrived on Mount Athos and was tonsured at Dionysiou Monastery with the name Νikόdēmos.
As his first obedience, Father Νikόdēmos served as the monastery’s secretary. Two years after entering Dionysiou monastery, the Metropolitan of Corinth, Saint Makarios Notaras (April 17), arrived there, and assigned the young monk to edit the manuscript of the Philokalia, which he had found in 1777 at Vatopedi Monastery. Editing this book was the beginning of many years of literary activity for Saint Νikόdēmos. The young man soon moved to Pantokrator Skete, where he was under obedience to Elder Arsenios of the Peloponnesos, under whose guidance he studied Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Holy Fathers.
In 1783 Saint Νikόdēmos was tonsured into the Great Schema, and spent the next six years in complete silence. On his next visit to Mount Athos, Saint Makarios gave Νikόdēmos the obedience of editing of the writings of Saint Symeon the New Theologian. This meant giving up his silence and occupying himself once more with literary work. From that time until his death, he continued to devote himself to such endeavors.
Not long before his repose, Father Νikόdēmos, worn out by his literary work and ascetical struggles, went to live at the Skete of the iconographers Hieromonks Stephen and Neophytos Skourtaios, who were brothers by birth. He asked them to help with the publication of his works, because he was hindered by his infirmity. Saint Νikόdēmos reposed peacefully on July 14, 1809.
According to the testimony of his contemporaries, Venerable Νikόdēmos was a simple man, without malice, unassuming, and distinguished by his profound concentration. He possessed remarkable mental abilities: he knew the Holy Scriptures by heart, remembering even the chapter, verse and page, and he was able to recite long passages from the writings of the Holy Fathers from memory.
The literary work of Saint Νikόdēmos was multi-faceted. He wrote a preface to the Philokalia, and brief Lives of the ascetics. Among the Saint’s ascetical works, his edition of Lorenzo Scupoli’s book, Unseen Warfare, is well known, and has been translated into Russian, English, and other languages. A remarkable work of the ascetic was his Manual of Confession (Venice, 1794, 1804, etc.), summarized in his treatise, “Three Discourses on Repentance." His most edifying book, Christian Morality, was published in Venice in 1803.
The Saint also made great contributions by publishing liturgical books. Using materials from the manuscript collections of Mount Athos, he published sixty-two Canons to the Most Holy Theotokos under the title, New Theotokarion (Venice, 1796, 1849).
Saint Νikόdēmos prepared a new edition of the the Pedalion or Rudder, comprised of the canons of the Holy Apostles, those of the Holy Ecumenical and Local Synods, and of the Holy Fathers.
Saint Νikόdēmos had a particular love for hagiography, as attested by his work, New Eklogion (Venice, 1803), and his posthumous book, The New Synaxarion in three volumes (Venice, 1819). He completed a Modern Greek translation of a book by Saint Theophylact, the Archbishop of Bulgaria: Saint Paul's Fourteen Epistles in three volumes. Saint Νikόdēmos also wrote An Interpretation of the Seven Catholic Epistles (also published at Venice in 1806 and 1819).
The exceedingly wise Νikόdēmos is also known as the author and interpreter of hymns. His Canon in honor of the “Quick to Hear” Icon of the Mother of God (November 9) and his “Service and Encomium in Honor of the Fathers who Shone on the Holy Mountain of Athos” are used even beyond the Holy Mountain. Some of his other books include the Heortodromion, an interpretation of the Canons which are sung on Feasts of the Lord and of the Mother of God (Venice, 1836), and The New Ladder, an interpretation of the 75 Hymns of Degrees (Anabathmoi) of the liturgical book called the Oktoekhos (Constantinople, 1844).