DORMITION OF ST. ANNA, MOTHER OF THE THEOTOKOS
Dormition of St. Anna, mother of the Theotokos, Olympias the Deaconess, Eupraxia & Julia the Righteous of Tabenna, Gregory Kallidis, Metropolitan of Heraclea, Memory of the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople (553)
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 4:22-27
Brethren, Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in travail; for the children of the desolate one are many more than the children of her that is married.”
The Lord said, "No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.
Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
Saint Anna was the daughter of the priest Matthan and his wife Mary. She was of the tribe of Levi and the lineage of Aaron. According to Tradition, she died peacefully in Jerusalem at age 79, before the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos.
During the reign of Saint Justinian the Emperor (527-565), a church was built in her honor at Deutera. Emperor Justinian II (685-695; 705-711) restored her church, since Saint Anna had appeared to his pregnant wife. It was at this time that her body and maphorion (veil) were transferred to Constantinople.
Portions of Saint Anna’s holy relics may be found on Mount Athos: Stavronikita Monastery (part of her left hand), Saint Anna’s Skete (part of her incorrupt left foot), Koutloumousiou Monastery (part of her incorrupt right foot). Fragments of her relics may also be found in her Monastery at Lygaria, Lamia, and in the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian at Sourota. Part of the saint’s incorrupt flesh is in the collection of Saints’ relics of the International Catholic Crusaders. The church of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in Rome has one of the saint’s wrists.
Saint Anna is also commemorated on September 9.
Saint Olympias the Deaconess was the daughter of the senator Anicius Secundus, and by her mother she was the granddaughter of the noted eparch Eulalios (he is mentioned in the life of Saint Nicholas). Before her marriage to Anicius Secundus, Olympias’s mother had been married to the Armenian emperor Arsak and became widowed. When Saint Olympias was still very young, her parents betrothed her to a nobleman. The marriage was supposed to take place when Saint Olympias reached the age of maturity. The bridegroom soon died, however, and Saint Olympias did not wish to enter into another marriage, preferring a life of virginity.
After the death of her parents she became the heir to great wealth, which she began to distribute to all the needy: the poor, the orphaned and the widowed. She also gave generously to the churches, monasteries, hospices and shelters for the downtrodden and the homeless.
Holy Patriarch Nectarius (381-397) appointed Saint Olympias as a deaconess. The saint fulfilled her service honorably and without reproach.
Saint Olympias provided great assistance to hierarchs coming to Constantinople: Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium, Onesimus of Pontum, Gregory the Theologian, Saint Basil the Great’s brother Peter of Sebaste, Epiphanius of Cyprus, and she attended to them all with great love. She did not regard her wealth as her own but rather God’s, and she distributed not only to good people, but also to their enemies.
Saint John Chrysostom (November 13) had high regard for Saint Olympias, and he showed her good will and spiritual love. When this holy hierarch was unjustly banished, Saint Olympias and the other deaconesses were deeply upset. Leaving the church for the last time, Saint John Chrysostom called out to Saint Olympias and the other deaconesses Pentadia, Proklia and Salbina. He said that the matters incited against him would come to an end, but scarcely more would they see him. He asked them not to abandon the Church, but to continue serving it under his successor. The holy women, shedding tears, fell down before the saint.
Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412), had repeatedly benefited from the generosity of Saint Olympias, but turned against her for her devotion to Saint John Chrysostom. She had also taken in and fed monks, arriving in Constantinople, whom Patriarch Theophilus had banished from the Egyptian desert. He levelled unrighteous accusations against her and attempted to cast doubt on her holy life.
After the banishment of Saint John Chrysostom, someone set fire to a large church, and after this a large part of the city burned down.
All the supporters of Saint John Chrysostom came under suspicion of arson, and they were summoned for interrogation. They summoned Saint Olympias to trial, rigorously interrogating her. They fined her a large sum of money for the crime of arson, despite her innocence and a lack of evidence against her. After this the saint left Constantinople and set out to Kyzikos (on the Sea of Marmara). But her enemies did not cease their persecution. In the year 405 they sentenced her to prison at Nicomedia, where the saint underwent much grief and deprivation. Saint John Chrysostom wrote to her from his exile, consoling her in her sorrow. In the year 409 Saint Olympias entered into eternal rest.
Saint Olympias appeared in a dream to the Bishop of Nicomedia and commanded that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea. “Wherever the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried,” said the saint. The coffin was brought by the waves to a place named Brokthoi near Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of Saint Olympias and placed them in the church of the holy Apostle Thomas.
Afterwards, during an invasion of enemies, the church was burned, but the relics were preserved. Under the Patriarch Sergius (610-638), they were transferred to Constantinople and put in the women’s monastery founded by Saint Olympias. Miracles and healings occurred from her relics.
Saint Eupraxia was daughter of the Constantinople dignitary Antigonos, a kinsman of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395).
Antigonus and his wife Eupraxia were pious and bestowed generous alms on the destitute. A daughter was born to them, whom they also named Eupraxia. Antigonos soon died, and the mother withdrew from the imperial court. She went with her daughter to Egypt, on the pretext of inspecting her properties. Near the Thebaid there was a women’s monastery with a strict monastic rule. The life of the inhabitants attracted the pious widow. She wanted to bestow aid on this monastery, but the abbess Theophila refused and said that the nuns had fully devoted themselves to God and that they did not wish the acquisition of any earthly riches. The abbess consented to accept only candles, incense and oil.
The younger Eupraxia was seven years old at this time. She liked the monastic way of life and she decided to remain at the monastery. Her pious mother did not stand in the way of her daughter’s wish. Taking leave of her daughter at the monastery, Eupraxia asked her daughter to be humble, never to dwell upon her noble descent, and to serve God and her sisters.
In a short while the mother died. Having learned of her death, the emperor Saint Theodosius sent Saint Eupraxia the Younger a letter in which he reminded her that her parents had betrothed her to the son of a certain senator, intending that she marry him when she reached age fifteen. The Emperor desired that she honor the commitment made by her parents. In reply, Saint Eupraxia wrote to the emperor that she had already become a bride of Christ, and she requested of the emperor to dispose of her properties, distributing the proceeds for the use of the Church and the needy.
Saint Eupraxia, when she reached the age of maturity, intensified her ascetic efforts all the more. At first she partook of food once a day, then after two days, three days, and finally, once a week. She combined her fasting with the fulfilling of all her monastic obediences. She toiled humbly in the kitchen, she washed dishes, she swept the premises and served the sisters with zeal and love. The sisters also loved the humble Eupraxia. But one of them envied her and explained away all her efforts as a desire for glory. This sister began to trouble and to reproach her, but the holy virgin did not answer her back, and instead humbly asked forgiveness.
The Enemy of the human race caused the saint much misfortune. Once,while getting water, she fell into the well, and the sisters pulled her out. Another time, Saint Eupraxia was chopping wood for the kitchen, and cut herself on the leg with an axe. When she carried an armload of wood up the ladder, she stepped on the hem of her garment. She fell, and a sharp splinter cut her near the eyes. All these woes Saint Eupraxia endured with patience, and when they asked her to rest, she would not consent.
For her efforts, the Lord granted Saint Eupraxia a gift of wonderworking. Through her prayers she healed a deaf and dumb crippled child, and she delivered a demon-possessed woman from infirmity. They began to bring the sick for healing to the monastery. The holy virgin humbled herself all the more, counting herself as least among the sisters. Before the death of Saint Eupraxia, the abbess had a vision. The holy virgin was transported into a splendid palace, and stood before the Throne of the Lord, surrounded by holy angels. The All-Pure Virgin showed Saint Eupraxia around the luminous chamber and said that She had made it ready for her, and that she would come into this habitation after ten days.
The abbess and the sisters wept bitterly, not wanting to lose Saint Eupraxia. The saint herself, in learning about the vision, wept because she was not prepared for death. She asked the abbess to pray that the Lord would grant her one year more for repentance. The abbess consoled Saint Eupraxia and said that the Lord would grant her His great mercy. Suddenly Saint Eupraxia sensed herself not well, and having sickened, she soon peacefully died at the age of thirty.
Our Venerable Father Makarios of Zheltovod and Unzha was born in the year 1349 at Nizhni-Novgorod into a pious family, and was baptized in the parish church of the Myrrh-bearing women. His secular name is unknown.
At the age of twelve, he left his parents' home, and was tonsured at the Nizhni-Novgorod Ascension Monastery of the Caves when Saint Dionysios (June 26) was the Igoumen.1 With all the intensity of his youthful soul, the future Saint devoted himself to the work of salvation. He attracted the notice of the brethren because of his very strict fasting and precise observance of the monastic Rule.
Only three years later did his parents learn where he had gone. His father went to him, tearfully begging his son to come out and see him. Makarios spoke to his father through the wall, saying that he would see him in the life to come.
“At least give me your hand," his distraught father said. The son acceded to his request, and after kissing his son's outstretched hand, the father returned home.
Finding his renown to be a burden, and disturbed by the many people who visited him, the humble Makarios moved to the shores of the Volga River, where he engaged in ascetic struggles near a place called Yellow Waters. With his firm determination and patience, he overcame the attacks of the Enemy of our salvation. Other lovers of solitude gathered around Saint Makarios, and he founded the Unzha Makariev-Trinity Monastery for them in 1435.
Later, with the permission of the local prince, and with the blessing of his Superior, he established a monastery on a tract called Yellow Waters. He was led there by the Great Prince Basil II the Dark of Moscow, who lived for some time at this monastery during his struggle with Prince Demetrios Shemyaka. There was a lake nearby, and the Saint baptized some local Finnish residents in it, enlightening them with the light of Christ's faith.
He began to preach Christ to the surrounding Cheremis and Chuvash peoples, and he baptized both Mohammedans and pagans in a lake. The Kazan Tatars destroyed the monastery in 1439, and took Saint Makarios captive. Out of respect for his piety and charity, the Khan released him from captivity and freed nearly 400 Christians along with him. In return, Saint Makarios promised not to settle at Yellow Waters.
The way back to their homeland took them through huge dense forests. Once, when the travelers were very tired and hungry, they caught an elk, and they wanted to kill it. However, Saint Makarios did not bless them to kill the elk, since it was during the Apostles' Fast. In order to identify the elk later, Saint Makarios told them to cut the tip of its ear. By the mercy of God, even the small children survived, after going without food until the Feast of the Apostles. On June 29, when the Fast ended, they encountered the same elk. The elk was killed, and the travelers regained their strength.
Saint Makarios buried those who had been killed at his monastery, and then he went 200 versts to the border of Galich. When he arrived at the city of Unzha, Saint Makarios set up a cross 15 versts from the city, and built a cell on the shores of Unzha Lake. There he started a new monastery.
During his fifth year at Unzha Lake, Saint Makarios became ill, and reposed at the age of 95. His holy relics rest there to this day.
After his death, the Tatars abducted a young woman on the very day of her wedding. They took her far away, and Saint Makarios appeared to her during the night. Miraculously, on that same night she found herself at the gates of her city, to the great joy of her young husband.
When he was still alive, Saint Makarios healed a blind and demon-possessed girl. After his repose in 1444, many people received healing from his relics. The monks built a church over his grave, and established a cenobitic Rule for the monastery.
In 1522, Tatars attacked Unzha and wanted to destroy the silver reliquary at the Makariev Monastery, but they were struck blind. Fleeing in a panic, many of them drowned in the Unzha River. In 1532, through the prayers of Saint Makarios, the city of Soligalich was saved from the Tatars. In gratitude, the inhabitants built a chapel in the cathedral church in honor of the Saint. By his prayers, more than 50 people received healing from grievous infirmities. This was confirmed by a commission which was sent to investigate by Patriarch Philaret in 1619.
Saint Makarios is commemorated on July 25, the day of his repose, and on October 12, the day when his relics were found in 1671, at the Unzha Makariev-Trinity Monastery which he had founded.
1 Later, he became the Archbishop of Suzdal.
The Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople II) was held at Constantinople, under the holy Emperor Saint Justinian I (527-565) in the year 553, to determine the Orthodoxy of three dead bishops: Theodore of Mopsuetia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa, who had expressed Nestorian opinions in their writings in the time of the Third Ecumenical Council (September 9).
These three bishops had not been condemned at the Fourth Ecumenical Council (July 16), which condemned the Monophysites, and in turn had been accused by the Monophysites of Nestorianism. Therefore, to deprive the Monophysites of the possibility of accusing the Orthodox of sympathy for Nestorianism, and also to dispose the heretical party towards unity with the followers of the Council of Chalcedon, the emperor Saint Justinian issued an edict. In it “the Three Chapters” (the three deceased bishops) were condemned. But since the edict was issued on the emperor’s initiative, and since it was not acknowledged by representatives of all the Church (particularly in the West, and in Africa), a dispute arose about the “Three Chapters.” The Fifth Ecumenical Council was convened to resolve this dispute.
165 bishops attended this Council. Pope Vigilius, though present in Constantinople, refused to participate in the Council, although he was asked three times to do so by official deputies in the name of the gathered bishops and the Emperor himself. The Council opened with Saint Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople (552-565, 577-582), presiding. In accordance with the imperial edict, the matter of the “Three Chapters” was carefully examined in eight prolonged sessions from May 4 to June 2, 553.
Anathema was pronounced against the person and teachings of Theodore of Mopsuetia. In the case of Theodore and Ibas, the condemnations were confined only to certain of their writings, while they personally had been cleared by the Council of Chalcedon, because of their repentance. Thus, they were spared from the anathema.
This measure was necessary because certain of the proscribed works contained expressions used by the Nestorians to interpret the definitions of the Council of Chalcedon for their own ends. But the leniency of the Fathers of the Fifth Ecumenical Council, in a spirit of moderate economy regarding the persons of Bishops Theodore and Ibas, instead embittered the Monophysites against the decisions of the Council. Besides which, the emperor had given the orders to promulgate the Conciliar decisions together with a decree of excommunication against Pope Vigilius, for being like-minded with the heretics. The Pope afterwards concurred with the mind of the Fathers, and signed the Conciliar definition. The bishops of Istria and all the region of the Aquilea metropolia, however, remained in schism for more than a century.
At the Council the Fathers likewise examined the errors of presbyter Origen, a renowned Church teacher of the third century. His teaching about the pre-existence of the human soul was condemned. Other heretics, who did not admit the universal resurrection of the dead, were also condemned.
It pleased the Lord that the Holy Spirit should inspire the Fathers of the Council in a further definition of Orthodoxy that preserves the integrity and dignity both of God and of mankind, without the distortion of either that occurs within the Nestorian or Monophysite heresies.