7TH THURSDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Prochoros, Nicanor, Timon, & Parmenas the Apostles of the 70, Irene the Righteous of Chrysovalantou, Our Righteous Father Paul of Xeropotamou
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 6:1-7
In those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochoros, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaos, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.
Saints Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas, Apostles of the Seventy were among the first deacons in the Church of Christ.
In the Acts of the Holy Apostles (6:1-6) it is said that the twelve Apostles chose seven men: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicholas, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and appointed them to serve as deacons.
They are commemorated together on July 28, although they died at various times and in various places.
At first, Saint Prochorus accompanied the holy Apostle Peter, who made him bishop in the city of Nicomedia. After the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, Prochorus was a companion and coworker of the holy Apostle John the Theologian and was banished with him to the island of Patmos. There he wrote down the Book of Revelation concerning the final fate of the world. Upon returning to Nicomedia, Saint Prochorus converted pagans to Christ in the city of Antioch, where he suffered martyrdom.
Although Saint Nicanor suffered on the same day that the holy Protomartyr Stephen (December 27) and many other Christians were killed by stoning, he is also commemorated on December 28.
Saint Timon was later appointed by the Apostles as bishop of the city of Bostra in Arabia and suffered from the Jews and pagans for preaching the Gospel. He was thrown into a furnace, but by the power of God he came out of it unharmed. The tradition of the Roman Church says that Saint Timon died by crucifixion. Saint Timon is also commemorated on December 30.
Saint Parmenas zealously preached Christ in Macedonia. He died after being afflicted with an illness. Some say that Saint Parmenas suffered martyrdom under Trajan (98-117) in the final year of his reign.
Saint Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov, in the world Procopius, was born 27 February 1645 (or 1644) in the city of Vyazma. From his youth, the Lord prepared Procopius for high spiritual service. While still a child, he learned reading and writing, attended church services, and acquired the habit of prayer. Procopius loved to read the writings of the holy Fathers and the Lives of the Saints. This furthered the future hierarch’s spiritual growth. The boy was remarkable for his overall love of work, broad knowledge and mature judgment. He was endowed with artistic talent, and he successfully occupied himself with the painting of icons and church singing. A sublime spiritual disposition led Procopius onto the pathway of monastic life. Having resolved to dedicate himself completely to God, he entered into the Vyazma’s monastery of Saint John the Baptist, known for its strict rule. When he was twenty-one, he was tonsured with the name of Pitirim.
The young monk earned the respect of his brethren by his ascetic life, and was chosen igumen. In 1684 he was raised to the dignity of archimandrite. Saint Pitirim, following the decree of the Tsar and the Patriarch, was diligent in removing “poorly executed,” westernized icons from churches, and from private use. During a procession he confiscated such an icon painted by an unskilled iconographer. Those who had brought the icon grumbled and cursed, and many people were stirred up against the saint. The affair became known to Patriarch Joachim, who praised the courage and zeal of Archimandrite Pitirim and approved of his actions, and summoned him to Moscow for higher service to the Church.
On September 1, 1684 Saint Pitirim was nominated to be a bishop, and on February 15, 1685 Patriarch Joachim consecrated him Bishop of Tambov. Saint Pitirim did not leave immediately, but remained in Moscow for a year to prepare himself for his new responsibilities.
Organized in 1682, the Tambov diocese suffered from the frontier poverty and the illiteracy of its inhabitants. Pagans comprised the greater part of the settlers: the Mordovians, the Cheremysi, the Mereschi. On the territory of the diocese lived also many Moslem Tatars, bitter opponents of Christianity. Among the Christian settlers of the diocese were many schismatics, fugitives from justice, or banished criminals.
The saint zealously devoted himself to the tasks set before him. On the site of the old wooden church at Tambov he began to build a two-story stone cathedral in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord with a chapel named for Saint Nicholas. Saint Pitirim not only supervised the construction of the temple, but even participated in the building work himself. The saint devoted great effort to the spiritual enlightenment of his flock. He built a special school for clergy, where worthy Church pastors were trained under his guidance. In his home the saint had collected a library of spiritual literature (in the inventory of the Moscow’s Dormition cathedral there are mentioned “two books of Dionysius the Areopagite, leather bound, one in red, the other in black, with gilt edges,” belonging to Saint Pitirim). The saint continually instructed his flock, preaching the Word of God. He often made trips throughout the diocese, in order to familiarize himself with the needs of the communities.
The holy archpastor was constantly concerned with the return of schismatics and dissenters to the Orthodox Church. His deep piety, active compassion towards neighbor, and wise patience in conversations with the schismatics and dissenters disposed them to trust his word. By the fine example of his holy life and by the power of grace-filled discourse, the saint led many to the true Faith. The saint’s sister, Katherine, became the first abbess of the Ascension women’s monastery, which he founded in 1690.
Being a bold man of prayer and intercessor before God, Saint Pitirim never lost his Christian humility. Not relying on his own human strength, the archpastor shielded the city of Tambov entrusted him by God with icons of the Savior and the Kazan Mother of God, placing them at the two chief gates.
Saint Pitirim prayed much and taught his flock about prayer. He was present at divine services every day and often served them himself. On those days when the saint did not serve, he sang in the kliros (choir), teaching the choir proper church singing and reading. In his cell the saint very often prayed before icons of the Devpeteruv Mother of God (February 29) and Saint Nicholas.
Saint Pitirim loved the beauty of nature in his land, which roused in him a feeling of prayerful thanksgiving to the All-Holy Trinity for the visible world. In the forest, near the place where he went for solitary prayer, he built the Tregulaev monastery of Saint John the Baptist. He founded it together with his spiritual friend, Saint Metrophanes of Voronezh (November 23 and August 7). There the saint set up a large wooden cross with an image of the Savior.
Like the great ascetics, Saint Pitirim allotted much time to physical work. The wells he dug with his own hands at the Tregulaev Monastery of Saint John the Baptist, near the Tambov Cathedral, and in the forest thicket where he withdrew for silence and prayer, are evidence of this.
Saint Pitirim died in 1698 at age fifty-three. The body of the saint was buried in the lower level of the Tambov Savior-Transfiguration cathedral, at the south wall of the right side chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas.
The death of Saint Pitirim did not dissolve his spiritual ties with his flock. People came to his tomb to seek his intercession, and soon obtained healing from God. With each year the number of pilgrims grew. On July 28, the anniversary of the saint’s blessed repose, they would attend services at the Tambov cathedral. Each new sign of God’s mercy, obtained by prayers to Saint Pitirim, inspired assurance for the people that the bishop they venerated was truly a man of God. From the year 1819 a record of miracles and personal testimonies began to be kept, and the veneration of Saint Pitirim extended far beyond the Tambov diocese. On July 28, 1914 the holy wonderworker Pitirim, Bishop of Tambov, was numbered among the saints.
Saint Moses lived in the Kiev Caves Monastery during the XIII-XIV centuries, and was completely dedicated to God. He wore chains and a heavy copper cross. His continuous and favorite ascetical struggle was psalmody and making innumerable prostrations. Therefore, he received the gift of working miracles.
The relics of the righteous Moses are in the Far (Theodosios) Caves. He should not be confused with Saint Moses the Hungarian (July 26).
The Holy Martyr Julian suffered during the reign of Antoninus Pius (138-161) in the Italian province of Campagna. The governor Flavian gave orders to search out and bring Christians to him for trial. During this time the young Christian Julian arrived in Campagna from Dalmatia. Having met with soldiers of the governor, he greeted them with the words: “Peace, brothers!” The soldiers began to interrogate him, asking where he was from and what faith he confessed. Julian, willing to suffer and die for Christ, bravely declared that he was a Christian. The soldiers were amazed at the courage of the youth, but obeying their orders, they bound him and led him to the governor. “We shall see,” they said, “how true your words are, whether you are willing to die for the Crucified One.”
Having undergone a beating, the saint prayed that the Lord would grant him the strength to endure the torture to the end. His prayer was heard, and he heard a Voice: “Fear not, Julian, I am with you and shall give you strength and courage.” The holy youth was locked up in a prison, called “the Cold Pit,” in which they held him for seven days without food or water. An angel of God brought food and heartened the confessor.
At the following interrogation the governor harassed the youth, saying, that it was shameful for such a handsome youth to worship the Crucified One, and urged him to offer sacrifice to idols. Saint Julian replied that he was prepared to die for the true Faith. The governor gave orders to tie the youth to a tree and beat him. The martyr began to pray and again heard a Voice: “Fear not, Julian, remain brave.” Saint Julian turned to the crowd standing about, and said, “Listen, accursed ones, do not trust your gods, which you have made with your hands. Know, rather, the God Who out of nothing, has created Heaven and earth.”
After his speech more than 30 men were converted to Christ, and they again led off the saint to prison. In the morning, when new tortures began, they announced that the temple of the pagan god Serapis and the idols standing in it were destroyed. Everyone arrived in shock and was terrified, but the Christians were heartened and glorified Christ God. The pagans attributed this destruction to magical power, and they demanded his immediate execution.
They decided to kill the holy youth at the site of a ruined pagan temple. Before execution, Saint Julian knelt and prayed, thanking the Lord for granting him to endure death for His Holy Name. A third time he heard the Voice, summoning him to the Kingdom of Heaven. They beheaded the holy martyr with a sword, and he departed to the Lord, Whom he loved more than earthly life.
The Holy Martyr Eustathius was a soldier. He was arrested and brought before the head of the city of Ancyra for confessing the Christian Faith. At the interrogation, the saint firmly and bravely confessed himself a Christian and was sentenced to tortures. They beat him without mercy, they bore into the heels and, having tied him with rope, they dragged him in the city to the River Sagka (Sangara).
At the bank of the river they put the martyr into a wooden chest and threw it in the water, but an angel of God brought the chest to shore. The saint, in the chest, was singing the 90th (91st) Psalm: “He who dwelleth in the help of the Most High…” Beholding the miracle and sensing himself disgraced, the governor drew his sword and killed himself. The holy martyr, having received Communion from the hand of an angel, gave up his soul to God. His holy relics were buried in the city of Ancyra.
Saint Paul of Xeropotamou, in the world Procopius, was the son of the Byzantine Emperor Michael Kuropalatos, who later resigned the imperial office and became a monk in a monastery he built. Having received the finest education, Procopius became one of the most learned men of his time. His “Discourse on the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple,” the “Canon to the Forty Martyrs”, the “Canon to the Venerable Cross” and other works gained him great renown. But worldly knowledge and honors did not interest him. He exchanged his fine garb for beggar’s rags, and he went to the Holy Mountain [Athos], to Xeropotamou. He built a cell there at the ruins of an old monastery founded by the empress Pulcheria in honor of the Forty Martyrs (March 9). From Cosmas, a hermit, he received monastic tonsure with the name Paul.
Out of humility the saint did not reveal his erudition to anyone. The fame of Paul’s strict life quickly spread throughout the Holy Mountain. He became called Paul of Xeropotamou, and the monastery where he pursued monasticism, to the present day bears the name Xeropotamou (“dry river”).
At that time the emperor Romanus, a relative of Paul, ascended the throne. Through the Protos of the Holy Mountain he requested the saint to come to Constantinople and planned a splendid reception for him. The humble Paul, not betraying his monastic duty, appeared with a cross and in torn robes amid the courtly splendor and magnificence. Saint Paul confirmed his fame as a chosen one of God, miraculously healing the grievously ill Romanus by placing his hand on him. But the vanity of courtly life, promised by the gratitude of the emperor, did not interest the saint; he returned to the Holy Mountain, having asked one favor of the emperor: to restore the Xeropotamou monastery.
In the holy altar in the consecrated cathedral church of the restored monastery, was put a piece of the Venerable Wood of the Life-Creating Cross of the Lord, given to Saint Paul by the emperor Romanus.
Soon the Xeropotamou monastery was filled by a throng of monks, wanting to put themselves under the guidance of the holy ascetic, but Saint Paul, having entrusted the rule of the monastery to one of the brethren, moved off to the remote wilderness. His quiet was again disturbed by disciples, not wanting to leave their Elder. Then the monk requested of the emperor the means for the building of a new monastery. Thus the saint founded a monastery in the name of the holy Great Martyr and Victory-Bearer Saint George. The first head of the new monastery was Saint Paul himself, who also brought a piece of the Venerable Wood of the Cross of the Lord there.
Having been informed in advance by the Lord of his impending end, the saint summoned the brethren of the Xeropotamou and the new Georgikos monasteries and gave them his final instructions. On the day of his death, Saint Paul donned the mantle, and read the prayer of Saint Joannicius, which he said continually: “My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit, O Holy Trinity, glory to Thee,” and he received the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
Saint Paul had instructed in his will to bury his body on the peninsula of Pongosa (opposite the Holy Mountain). But by the will of God the ship was driven to the shores of Constantinople, where the Emperor and Patriarch with the pious took the body of the saint and solemnly placed it in the Great Church (Hagia Sophia). After the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders, the relics of Saint Paul were transferred to Venice.
The Smolensk “Hodēgḗtria” Icon of the Theotokos, or “She who leads the way,” was, according to Church Tradition, painted by the holy Evangelist Luke during the earthly life of the Most Holy Theotokos. The holy hierarch Demetrius of Rostov suggests that this icon was painted at the request of Theophilus, the prefect of Antioch. From Antioch the holy image was transferred to Jerusalem. From there the empress Eudokia, the spouse of Arcadius, gave it at Constantinople to Pulcheria, the sister of the emperor, who put the holy icon in the Blachernae church.
In 1046, the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (1042-1054), gave his daughter Anna in marriage to Prince Vsevolod Yaroslavich, the son of Yaroslav the Wise. He blessed her on her way with this icon. After the death of Prince Vsevolod the icon went to his son Vladimir Monomachos, who transferred it at the beginning of the twelfth century into the Smolensk cathedral church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. From that time, the icon was known as the Smolensk Hodēgḗtria.
In the year 1238, at the bespeaking of the icon, the self-sacrificing Orthodox warrior Mercurius went by night into the camp of Batu and killed many of the enemy, in whose number was their most powerful warrior. Having accepted a martyr’s death in battle, he was included by the Church in the ranks of the Saints (November 24).
In the fourteenth century, Smolensk came into the possession of the Lithuanian princes. The daughter of prince Vitovt, Sophia, was given in marriage to the Moscow Great Prince Basil Dimitrievich (1398-1425). In 1398, she brought the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God with her to Moscow. They set the holy image in the Annunciation cathedral of the Kremlin, on the right side of the Royal Doors.
In 1456, at the request of the inhabitants of Smolensk with Bishop Misael at the head, the icon was solemnly returned to Smolensk in a church procession, and at Moscow there remained two copies. One was put in the Annunciation cathedral, and the other, “a measure for measure,” was put in the Novodevichi monastery, founded in memory of the return of Smolensk to Russia. The monastery was built on Devichi Pole (Virgin’s Field), where “with many tears” the Muscovites handed over the holy icon to Smolensk. In 1602 an exact copy was painted from the wonderworking icon (in 1666 together with the ancient icon they brought a new copy to Moscow for restoration), which they placed in the tower of the Smolensk fortress wall over the Dneprovsk Gates, under a specially constructed cover. Afterwards, in 1727, a wooden church was built there, and in 1802, a stone church.
The new copy took on the power of the old image, and when the Russian armies left Smolensk on August 5, 1812, they took the icon with them for defense from the enemy forces. On the eve of the Battle of Borodino they carried this icon through the camp, to encourage and inspire the soldiers to great deeds. The ancient image of the Smolensk Hodēgḗtria, taken to the Dormition cathedral on the day of the Battle of Borodino went in procession with the Ivḗron and Vladimir Icons of the Mother of God through the Belo and Kitai quarters and the Kremlin walls, and then they sent it to the sick and wounded at the Lefortovo palace. After leaving Moscow, the icon was taken to Yaroslavl.
Thus were these sister-icons preserved, and the Mother of God defended Russia through Her icons. After the victory over the enemy forces the Hodēgḗtria Icon was returned to Smolensk together with its glorified copy.
The celebration in honor of this wonderworking icon on July 28 was established in the year 1525 in memory of the return of Smolensk to Russia.
There exist many venerated copies of the Smolensk Hodēgḗtria, for which the celebration is set on this day. There is also a day of celebration for the Smolensk Icon (November 5), glorified in the nineteenth century when this image was returned to Smolensk on the orders of the commander-in-chief of the Russian army M. I. Kutuzov. In memory of the expulsion of the enemy from Russia, it was decided to celebrate this day annually at Smolensk.
The holy icon of the Hodēgḗtria Mother of God is one of the chief holy objects of the Russian Church. Believers have received and do receive from it an abundant help of grace. The Mother of God through Her holy icon intercedes for and strengthens us, guiding us on the way to salvation, and we call out to Her, “Thou art the All-Blessed Hodēgḗtria for faithful peoples, Thou art the affirmation, the Praiseworthy of Smolensk and all the Russian land. Rejoice, Hodēgḗtria, salvation of Christians!”
The Holy Martyr Acacius was brought to trial for his belief in Christ. Three governors attempted to compel the holy martyr to offer sacrifice to idols, having subjected him to fierce tortures. Governor Licinius gave orders to rend the body of Saint Acacius with instruments of torture. He then sent him to Governor Terence, who gave orders to throw Acacius into a cauldron filled with boiling tar and tallow, but the martyr remained unharmed. Terence went to the cities of Apamea and Apollonia and gave orders to bring the martyr after him. In one of these cities Saint Acacius was led into a pagan temple, but by his prayer all the idols there fell down.
They beat the saint viciously and gave him over to be eaten by wild beasts. When they saw that he remained unharmed, they threw him into a red-hot furnace. The martyr also remained unharmed there. The governor, wanting to check whether the furnace was sufficiently hot, went near it and was burned himself. They then took the holy Martyr Acacius for torture to a certain Posidonius, who put heavy fetters on the holy martyr and gave orders to take him to the city of Miletus. There also the saint, by his prayer, destroyed idols. Finally, the exhausted torturers beheaded Saint Acacius. A priest by the name of Leontius buried his body in the city of Synados (Asia Minor).
No information available at this time.
Saint Irene was the daughter of a wealthy family from Cappadocia, and was born in the ninth century.
After the death of her husband Theophilus, the empress Theodora ruled the Byzantine Empire as regent for her young son Michael. Saint Theodora (February 11) helped to defeat the iconoclast heresy, and to restore the holy icons. We commemorate this Triumph of Orthodoxy on the first Sunday of Great Lent.
When Michael was twelve years of age, Saint Theodora sent messengers throughout the Empire to find a suitably virtuous and refined girl to be his wife. Saint Irene was chosen, and she agreed to the marriage. While passing Mt. Olympus in Asia Minor, Irene asked to stop so she could receive the blessing of Saint Joannicius (November 4), who lived on the mountain. The saint, who showed himself only to the most worthy pilgrims, foresaw the arrival of Saint Irene, and also her future life.
The holy ascetic welcomed her and told her to proceed to Constantinople, where the women’s monastery of Chrysovalantou had need of her. Amazed at his clairvoyance, Irene fell to the ground and asked Saint Joannicius for his blessing. After blessing her and giving her spiritual counsel, he sent her on her way.
When the party arrived in Constantinople, Irene’s relatives met her with great ceremony. Since “the steps of a man are rightly ordered by the Lord” (Ps. 36/37:23), God arranged for Michael to marry another girl a few days before, so that Irene might be free to become a bride of Christ. Far from being disappointed, Irene rejoiced at this turn of events.
Remembering the words of Saint Joannicius, Irene visited the Monastery of Chrysovalantou. She was so impressed by the nuns and their way of life that she freed her slaves and distributed her wealth to the poor. She exchanged her fine clothing for the simple garb of a nun, and served the sisters with great humility and obedience. The abbess was impressed with the way that Irene performed the most menial and disagreeable tasks without complaint.
Saint Irene often read the Lives of the Saints in her cell, imitating their virtues to the best of her ability. She often stood in prayer all night with her hands raised like Moses on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 17:11-13). Saint Irene spent the next few years in spiritual struggles defeating the assaults of the demons, and bringing forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
When the abbess sensed the approach of death, she told the other nuns that they should not accept anyone but Irene as the new abbess. Irene was not told of the abbess’s instructions, and when she died the community sent representatives to go and seek the advice of the patriarch, Saint Methodius (June 14). He asked them whom they wanted as their superior. They replied that they believed he would be guided by the Holy Spirit. Without knowing of the late abbess’s instructions to the nuns, he asked if there was a humble nun by the name of Irene in their monastery. If so, he said, they should choose her. The nuns rejoiced and gave thanks to God. Saint Methodius elevated Irene to the rank of abbess and advised her how to guide those in her charge.
Returning to the monastery, Irene prayed that God would help her to care for those under her, and redoubled her own spiritual efforts. She displayed great wisdom in leading the nuns, and received many revelations from God to assist her in carrying out her duties. She also asked for the gift of clairvoyance so that she would know what trials awaited her nuns. Thus, she was in a better position to give them the proper advice. She never used this knowledge to embarrass others, but only to correct their confessions in a way which let them know that she possessed certain spiritual gifts.
Although Saint Irene performed many miracles during her life, let us mention only one. On great Feasts it was her habit to keep vigil in the monastery courtyard under the starry skies. Once, a nun who was unable to sleep left her cell and went into the courtyard. There she saw Abbess Irene levitating a few feet above the ground, completely absorbed in prayer. The astonished nun also noticed that two cypress trees had bowed their heads to the ground, as if in homage. When she finished praying, Irene blessed the trees and they returned to their upright position.
Afraid that this might be a temptation from the demons, the nun returned the next night to see if she had been mistaken. Again she saw Irene levitating as she prayed, and the cypress trees bowing down. The nun tied handkerchiefs to the tops of the two trees before they went back to their places. When the other sisters saw the handkerchiefs atop the trees, they began to wonder who had put them there. Then the nun who had witnessed these strange events revealed to the others what she had seen. When Saint Irene learned that the nun had witnessed the miracle and told the others, she was very upset. She warned them not to speak of it to anyone until after her death.
Saint Irene observed the Feast of Saint Basil (January 1) with great devotion, since he also came from Cappadocia. One year, after celebrating the feast, Saint Irene heard a voice during the night telling her to welcome the sailor who would come to the door the next day. She was told to rejoice and eat the fruit which the sailor would bring her. During Matins, a sailor did come to the door and remained in church until after Liturgy. He told her that he had come from Patmos, where he boarded a ship. As the ship set sail, he noticed an old man on the shore calling for them to stop. In spite of a good wind, the ship came to a sudden halt. Then the old man walked across the water and entered the ship. He gave the sailor three apples which God was sending to the patriarch “from His beloved disciple John.” Then the old man gave the sailor three more apples for the abbess of Chrysovalantou. He told the sailor that if Irene ate the apples, all that her soul desired would be granted, “for this gift comes from John in Paradise.”
Saint Irene fasted for a week, giving thanks to God for this wonderful gift. For forty days, she ate small pieces of the first apple every day. During this time she had nothing else to eat or drink. On Holy Thursday, she told the nuns to receive the Holy Mysteries, then gave each one a piece of the second apple. They noticed an unusual sweetness, and felt as if their very souls were being nourished.
An angel informed Saint Irene that she would be called to the Lord on the day after Saint Panteleimon’s feast. The monastery’s feast day fell on July 26, so Saint Irene prepared by fasting for a week beforehand. She took only a little water and small pieces of the third apple sent to her by Saint John. The whole monastery was filled with a heavenly fragrance, and all discord disappeared.
On July 28, Saint Irene called the nuns together in order to bid them farewell. She also told them to select Sister Mary as her successor, for she would keep them on the narrow way which leads to life (Matthew 7:14). After entreating God to protect her flock from the power of the devil, she smiled when she saw the angels who had been sent to receive her soul. Then she closed her eyes and surrendered her soul to God.
Saint Irene was more than 101 years old when she died, yet her face appeared young and beautiful. A great crowd of people came for her funeral, and many miracles took place at her tomb.
In some parishes it is customary to bless apples on the feast of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou.
The Greben Icon of the Mother of God, glorified by miracles and located in a church in the city of Greben (on the River Chira, flowing into the Don), was presented by the inhabitants of the city to Great Prince Demetrius of the Don upon his return from the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380.
In 1471, after a successful campaign against Novgorod, Great Prince Ivan III built the church of the Dormition in Moscow at Lubyanka and placed in it the Greben icon of the Mother of God, which he had taken with him on the campaign. He adorned the icon with a silver riza covered with precious stones, and ordered an Akathist to be written in honor of the icon. When the church burned in 1617, the icon miraculously was preserved. The icon, almost a reverse image of the Ivḗron icon (February 12, March 31, October 13), is recognized by the distinctive folds of the Virgin’s omaphorion and the position of the Christ Child’s legs.
The Seraphim-Diveyevo “Tenderness” Icon of the Mother of God belonged to Saint Seraphim of Sarov, and was the icon he kept in his cell. The saint anointed the sick with oil from the lampada burning before this icon, and they received healing . The holy ascetic reposed while praying before the icon on January 2, 1833. Father Niphon, the Superior of the monastery, gave the holy “Tenderness” icon to the sisters of the Seraphim-Diveyevo monastery.
The White Lake Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos resembles the Vladimir Icon (May 21, June 23, August 26) in appearance. It was originally in the cell of Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9), who often prayed before it.
One day, while he was chanting the Akathist before this icon, the Mother of God appeared to Saint Cyril and told him to establish a monastery on White Lake.
The Archangels Michael and Gabriel are seen on either side of the Virgin’s head, and various saints are depicted around the border of the icon.
The White Lake Icon is also commemorated on June 8.
The Kostroma Hodēgḗtria Icon of the Mother of God was painted in 1672 on the wall of the southwest tower of the Kostroma Theophany monastery. In 1779 a great conflagration occurred at the monastery, and the tower was all enveloped by flames, but the holy Icon of the Mother of God did not suffer from the fire. In the year 1824 a church was built at the tower.
The Ustiuzhena Icon of the Mother of God (1290), glorified by many miracles, was situated in the city of Ustiuzhna under Novgorod governance (now Vologda district). At the beginning of the seventeenth century the inhabitants of Ustiushna, praying for salvation before this holy icon, were delivered from an invasion of the Swedes and Polish by the intercession of the Queen of Heaven.
The Holy Icon of the Voroninsk Mother of God was situated in the Voroninsk Dormition of the Mother of God hermitage in the Cherepovetsk district of Novgorod governance. Its appearance occurred in 1524.
In 1555, the Icon of the Mother of God “Of Saint Christopher” was put in the church of the monastery founded by Saint Christopher of Solvychegodsk (July 25), a disciple of Saint Longinus of Koryazkemsk (February 10). This icon was glorified by many miracles, and near the monastery a spring of healing water flows from the earth.
The Saint Christopher Icon is one of the Hodēgḗtria type.
The Holy Suprasl Icon of the Mother of God was in the Annunciation women’s monastery of Grodnensk governance at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It was glorified by many miracles and both Orthodox and Catholics piously reverence it.
The icon is one of the Hodēgḗtria type.
The Vydropussk Hodēgḗtria Icon of the Mother of God in the fifteenth century was in the church of the Great Martyr George in the village of Vydropussk, Novgorod governia. During the time of a conflagration of the church, this holy icon remained undamaged. After the taking of Novgorod by the Moscow Great Prince Ivan III, his army returned to Moscow. One of the soldiers, a Murom native, having gone into the church took from it the icon of the Mother of God, and going to his own estate put it in a church of Saint Nicholas.
When they served the first service of thanksgiving before the stolen holy icon, after the reading of the words of the Gospel: “…and returned to Her own house” (Luke. 1:56) suddenly a whirlwind flew, the canopy of the temple opened, the Icon of the Mother of God was raised up in the air and miraculously transported to the church of the village of Vydropussk.
The guilty thief of the holy icon repented and came on foot to Vydropussk, beseeching the Mother of God to forgive him. In the sixteenth century this holy icon was taken to Moscow, and from it an exact copy was made for the church of the village of Vydropussk, and the original was put in the temple of the Transfiguration in the city of Torzhek.
The Wonderworking Yuga Icon of the Mother of God appeared at the beginning of the seventeenth century to the Elder Saint Dorotheus, schemamonk of the Pskov Caves monastery. The Mother of God, during an invasion of the Swedes, commanded him to take Her image to a place She specified, and to bring the icon to Yaroslav diocese and to start a monastery there .
The igumen of the monastery would not agree to give up the Icon of the Mother of God, but She appeared to him in a vision commanding him to fulfill Her will and let Elder Dorotheus take Her icon. Elder Dorotheus came to the place specified in the vision, stopped to rest, and put the holy icon upon a tree.
When he wanted to continue the journey, then some invisible power prevented him from taking the holy icon from the tree. Saint Dorotheus realized that the Queen of Heaven wanted to remain in this place. He then built a small hut and stayed near the holy icon. News of the Elder’s arrival quickly spread through the surrounding villages. Pilgrims came to venerate the holy icon, from which many healings took place. Money was collected by the pious local inhabitants, and construction of a new monastery began.
Saint Dorotheus died in the year 1622. Clergy presented accounts of miracles to Patriarch Philaret. They received his blessing to establish a monastery at the River Yuga with church dedicated to the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. The monastery became known as the Yuga. In 1654, by the intercession of the Mother of God, a deadly pestilence was halted in that place.
The Holy Igritsa Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the year 1624 in Igritsa at the River Pesochna not far from the city of Kostroma. Local peasants found the icon in an old half-ruined church, for fifty years it was left neglected after a deadly plague. The icon stood in the altar and shone with bright hues, as though newly painted.
After the first service of thanksgiving served in front of this holy icon, a boyar’s (nobleman’s) blind son Emilian gained his sight. Then four devout Christians stayed to live around the desolate church and took monastic vows. At the place of the appearance of the icon of the Mother of God there afterwards was built a new church and a monastic community emerged.
The Holy Hodēgḗtria Icon of the Mother of God, named the Shui, appeared in the city of Shui of Vladimir diocese at the very height of a raging deadly epidemic in the years 1654-1655. The inhabitants of the city combatted this misfortune by prayer, and gathered together in the churches, beseeching mercy of the Lord. A certain pious parishioner of the Resurrection church discussed with his compatriots to gather together the means and to commission a copy of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God and place it in the temple, which was done.
The icon was painted in seven days, during which time the inhabitants of Shui fasted and made fervent prayer to the Mother of God. Having communed the Holy Mysteries, they with a priest at the head carried the newly painted icon into the church. And from that time the deadly pestilence ceased. In 1831 by the intercession of the Mother of God a cholera epidemic at Shui ceased. From this holy icon the lad James received healing from demonic possession, and also many of the sick.
The Seven Lakes (Sedmiezernaya) Icon of the Mother of God was glorified by great miracles in the seventeenth century in the area around the city of Kazan. This holy icon was in the Seven Lakes hermitage near the city of Kazan. Originally, seven small lakes surrounded the monastery, but these later merged into one large body of water.
The wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God was brought from Great Ustiug near Kazan on October 13, 1615 by the monk Euthymius, founder of the Seven Lakes monastery. He placed this icon in the temple of the newly established monastery.
In the middle of the seventeenth century, a deadly plague raged throughout all Russia, and reached Kazan. There 48,000 men died within a short time, almost all the inhabitants of the city.
A certain pious monk had a vision in a dream: a radiant man apeared to him and commanded that the inhabitants of the city should establish a seven-day fast and go out to meet the icon of the Mother of God which was coming to them from the Seven Lakes hermitage for their deliverance.
The monk told the authorities about the vision. The Seven Lakes Icon was brought through the city gates in procession. After circling the entire stone city, it was placed in the church of the Annunciation. After an All Night Vigil and Liturgy the next morning, the icon was carried to visit homes in the wooden city. After seven days of prayer and processions, the deadly pestilence began to abate.
When the monks asked to have their icon returned, it was decided to celebrate an All Night Vigil, then to carry the icon in procession back to the hermitage. A heavy snow storm came up, however, which prevented them from leaving the church. This was repeated three times, so it was decided to let the holy icon remain in Kazan for a time. It was returned to the Seven Lakes monastery in 1655.
Today’s Feast commemorates a second deliverance of Kazan from pestilence in 1771. Orthodox inhabitants of Kazan and the surrounding area deeply revere this holy icon, and receive healing from sickness and help in misfortune from the Mother of God.
The Seven Lakes Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is also commemorated on October 13 and June 26.
The Holy Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God is located at the Holy Trinity Sergiev Lavra in the Smolensk church on the left side of the Royal Doors. From this icon in 1730 there a cantor, whose hands were bent and rigid to the back, received healing. The Mother of God appeared to him in a vision and healed him. This occurrence was attested to by physicians.
The venerable George the Builder was the third abbot of the Ivḗron Monastery on Mt. Athos. According to some sources, he was a nephew of Saint John, the founder and first abbot of the Ivḗron Monastery.
George was elevated to the rank of abbot after Saint Ekvtime left the monastery to travel to Jerusalem. Under his leadership, the main church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos was constructed. An inscription on the wall of the church reads: “I established these columns and they will not be shaken unto the ages. Monk George the Georgian, Builder.”
For most of his life Abbot George was highly respected and even revered in the imperial court of Byzantium, but he was eventually slandered, accused of treason, and exiled to the island of Monovatia, where he reposed in the year 1029.
The exile of Abbot George proved fatal for the Ivḗron Monastery: his persecutors followed that act by stealing and desecrating all the treasures of the monastery, which had been purchased by the blood and sweat of the holy fathers. (The rightful property of the Ivḗron Monastery was later recovered during the reign of the pious Emperor Michael.)
The Georgian monks translated Saint George’s incorrupt relics from the island of Monovatia to Athos and buried them there in a marble tomb.