7TH SUNDAY OF MATTHEW
7th Sunday of Matthew, Forefeast of the Precious Cross, Dionysios the Righteous Martyr of Vatopaidi, Joseph the Righteous of Arimathea, Eudocimus the Righteous of Cappadocia
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 15:1-7
Brethren, we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves; let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
At that time, as Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, "Have mercy on us, Son of David." When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord." Then he touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith be it done to you." And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly charged them, "See that no one knows it." But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.
As they were going away, behold, a dumb demoniac was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the dumb man spoke; and the crowds marveled, saying, "Never was anything like this seen in Israel." But the Pharisees said, "He casts out demons by the prince of demons.
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
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Saint Eudocimus, a native of Cappadocia (Asia Minor), lived during the ninth century during the reign of Emperor Theophilus (829-842). He was the son of the pious Christians Basil and Eudokia, an illustrious family known to the emperor. They raised their son “in discipline and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6: 4), planting in his soul a sincere faith and holy virtues.
The righteous life of Saint Eudocimus was devoted to pleasing God and serving his neighbor. Having given a vow to remain unmarried and chaste, he avoided conversation with women and did not look at them. He would speak only with his own mother, whom he greatly respected. The emperor valued his virtue and talents, so he appointed Saint Eudocimus as governor of Chorziane, Armenia. Fulfilling his duty as a servant of God, Saint Eudocimus governed the people justly and with kindness. He concerned himself with the unfortunate, and with orphans and widows, and he was a defender of the common people. His personal Christian exploits which he did in secret, were known only to God.
Eudocimus pleased God by his blameless life, and the Lord called him at age 33. Lying on his deathbed, Saint Eudocimus gave final instructions to place him in the grave in those clothes in which he would meet death. Then he sent everyone out of the room and entreated the Lord that no one would see his end, just as no one saw his secret efforts during life. His attendants buried him as he had instructed them. Right after the death of Saint Eudocimus miracles took place at his grave. Many sick people were healed, and the news of the miraculous healings spread.
After 18 months, the mother of Saint Eudocimus came from Constantinople to venerate his relics. She gave orders to remove the stone, dig up the ground, and open the grave. Everyone beheld the face of the saint, bright as if alive, altogether untouched by decay. A great fragrance came from him. They took up the coffin with the relics from the earth, and they dressed the saint in new clothes. His mother wanted to take the relics of her son to Constantinople, but the Kharsian people would not clear a path for their holy one. After a certain time the hieromonk Joseph, having lived and served at the grave of the saint, transported the relics of Saint Eudocimus to Constantinople. There they were placed in a silver reliquary in the church of the Most Holy Theotokos, built by the parents of the saint.
Saint Eudocimus is considered by the Russian Church to be one of the special protectors and intercessors before God of the family hearth. He was, as his name implies, truly successful in every virtue.
The Holy Martyr Julitta lived at Caesarea in Cappadocia during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305). A certain pagan stole all her property, and when Julitta turned for relief to the courts, her antagonist reported to the judge that she was a Christian, which placed her outside the law’s protection.
The judge demanded that the saint renounce Christ, for which he promised to return her unlawfully taken property. Saint Julitta resolutely refused the deceitful conditions, and for this she was burned to death in the year 304 (or 305). Saint Basil the Great wrote an Encomium to Saint Julitta 70 years after her death as a martyr.
Saint Germanus was born at Auxerre around 389, and studied rhetoric and law at Rome. There he practiced as a lawyer.
The emperor Honorius sent him back to Gaul as a provincial governor, with his headquarters at Auxerre. He also married about this time. In 418 he was chosen to succeed Saint Amator (May 1) as Bishop of Auxerre. From that time on, his faith became deeper, and his prayer more fervent. He gave away his possessions to the poor, and ate coarse barley bread only in the evening. He often fasted for several days, and dressed in simple monastic garb.
Pope Celestine I sent him to Britain in 429 with Saint Lupus of Troyes (July 29) to fight the Pelagian heresy, where they defeated the teachers of this false doctrine. During one of his two trips to Britain Saint Germanus took command of an army and defeated a combined force of Saxons and Picts.
When savage barbarians threatened the city of Armorica (now Brittany), Saint Germanus met their leader, seized his horse’s bridle, and turned him around. After defusing the threat, the saint traveled to Ravenna seeking pardon for the rebels from the emperor Valentian III. He was received with honor, and died there on July 31, 448.
The body of Saint Germanus was brought back to Auxerre for burial. Centuries later, his holy relics were scattered by the Huguenots.
The New Hieromartyr Benjamin (Kazansky) was appointed Metropolitan of Petrograd in the summer of 1917. During those tumultuous times, he was one of the few people in Russia with no interest in politics. He was more concerned with caring for his diocese and his flock.
In 1922, the Communists began confiscating Church treasures. They professed that they wanted to sell them in order to buy food for the starving population. When the people protested, there were bloody reprisals. Metropolitan Benjamin did not resist turning over the Church’s valuables, for he believed it was his duty to help save people’s lives. He wanted this sacrifice to be voluntary, however, and not a plundering of church property by the government.
On March 6, 1922 Metropolitan Benjamin met with a commission which had been formed to help the starving. They agreed to his request that the dispersal of funds from voluntary contributions should be controlled by the parishes. Newspapers of that time praised the Metropolitan and his clergy for their charitable spirit.
Party leaders in Moscow did not approve of the decision made by the Communists of Petrograd allowing voluntary contributions to be administered by the parishes, and declared that the confiscation of Church property would continue. Protesters gathered in Petrograd, shouting and throwing stones at those who were stealing from the churches.
On March 24, 1922 “Pravda” printed a letter from twelve priests who broke ranks with the other clergy, referring to them as “counter-revolutionaries” and blaming them for the famine. Most of these twelve would later be active in the “Living Church.” They called for unconditional surrender of all Church valuables to the Soviets.
The clergy of Petrograd were outraged by the letter from the twelve. Metropolitan Benjamin, hoping to avoid confrontations between the people and the Communists, tried to calm his priests. He also asked for a meeting with the authorities. Vvedensky and Boyarsky, two of the twelve, were delegated to talk with Soviet leaders, and came to an agreement. Parishes would be permitted to keep their sacred vessels if they substituted other property of equal value. This program seemed to work well for a time.
Vvedensky, Boyarsky, and others tried to wrest control of the Church from Patriarch Tikhon and the bishops. They informed Metropolitan Benjamin of the new state of affairs, declaring that Vvedensky had been appointed as the Petrograd representative of the new Church administration.
The Metropolitan could not accept this threat to Church order, so he proclaimed that Vvedensky would be regarded as being outside the Church until he repented of his error. This decree was published in the newspapers, and served to enrage the Soviets.
Vvedensky and the Petrograd commandant Bakaev went to see the Metropolitan and ordered him to rescind his decree. If he did not, they told him, he and others close to him would be placed on trial. They warned Metropolitan Benjamin that he and others would be put to death if he made the wrong choice. He refused to submit.
The courageous archpastor began meeting with his friends in order to say farewell. He also gave instructions for the administration of the diocese. A few days later, the Metropolitan was placed under house arrest. Not long after that, he was taken to prison.
As his trial began, the Metropolitan entered the courtroom with Bishop Benedict and other clergy. When everyone stood up for him, Metropolitan Benjamin blessed them. The judges tried to get the Metropolitan to renounce the idea of the parishes voluntarily contributing church valuables in order to feed the hungry, or to provide the names of those who had conceived this idea. It would suit their purposes very well if he could be made to “repent” or back away from his previous statements and submit to the authorities.
The other clergy and civilians on trial with Metropolitan Benjamin did not try to ingratiate themselves with the court, and did not accuse others in order to win leniency for themselves. During the trial, Archimandrite Sergius (Shein) explained that as a monk he had renounced the world in order to dedicate himself to God. Only the flimsiest of threads still connected him with the outside world, he asserted. “Does this tribunal imagine,” he said, “that severing this thread which connects me with life could frighten me? Do your deed. I pity you, and I pray for you.”
The trial lasted for two weeks, and the prosecutors presented witnesses who had been hired to bring false accusations against the defendants.
Many witnesses were called, and their testimony seemed to support Metropolitan Benjamin and to weaken the government’s case against him. A certain professor of the Technological Institute named Egorov angered the court by his testimony. He was accused of being a follower of the Metropolitan, so he was arrested on the spot.
In spite of all the evidence, the defendants were found guilty. Government supporters and members of the Red Army in the court broke into applause. The defense attorney addressed the court, saying that he knew that any pleas he might offer would be useless. “Political considerations come first with you, and all verdicts must favor your policy,” he declared. Even though everyone understood that the trial was a farce, the Soviet government could not afford to make a martyr out of Metropolitan Benjamin. The example of history, he pointed out, should warn them against such a course.
When the defense attorney had finished, there was loud clapping. The judges tried to restore order, but found that many Communists in the audience had also joined in the applause.
The defendants were given a chance to speak, and the Metropolitan stood to address the court. He said it grieved him to be called an enemy of the people, for he had always loved the people and dedicated his life to them. The rest of his comments were a defense of the others on trial with him. When the presiding judge asked him to say something about himself, he said that no matter what sentence the court decreed he would thank God by saying, “Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee for all things.”
At 9:00 P.M. on July 5, the chairman of the tribunal announced that ten defendants, including the Metropolitan, were to be shot.
Saint Benjamin and those with him (Archimandrite Sergius, George, and John of Petrograd) were executed on July 31, 1922. They had been shaved and dressed in rags so that the firing squad would not know that they were shooting members of the clergy.
These saints are also commemorated at the Synaxis of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia (January 25 or the Sunday after the 25th).
Arsenius of Ninotsminda was an ascetic who labored in the 11th century. History tells us that he was a brilliant translator, writer, calligrapher, and theologian, and indeed one of the greatest Church figures of his time.
Saint Arsenius was tonsured a monk in Jerusalem, and after some time he returned to Georgia, where he was consecrated bishop of Ninotsminda. But the venerable Arsenius longed to lead a life of solitude, so he approached King Davit Kuropalates for permission to resign from the bishopric and settle at a monastery. The king honored Arsenius’s request, and the pious man set off for the monastery with John Grdzeslidze, a man of letters and another great figure in the Church.
When the news of his decision reached the Ivḗron Monastery on Mt. Athos, Saints John and Ekvtime invited the fathers to Mt. Athos, and the next year Arsenius and John arrived at the Holy Mountain. There they assisted Saint Ekvtime in his translations of the Holy Scriptures and many theological books.
Saint Arsenius labored fruitfully at the Ivḗron Monastery for many years and reposed peacefully at an advanced age. He was buried on Mt. Athos at the monastery’s church of Saint Simeon the Stylite. Saint George of the Holy Mountain later translated his relics to the ossuary of the monastery’s catholicon.
Righteous Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a member of the Sanhedrin he did not participate in the “counsel and deed” of the Jews in passing a death sentence for Jesus Christ. After the Crucifixion and Death of the Savior he made bold to go to Pilate and ask him for the Body of the Lord, to Which he gave burial with the help of Righteous Νikόdēmos, who was also a secret disciple of the Lord.
They took down the Body of the Savior from the Cross, wrapped it in a winding-cloth, and placed it in a new tomb, in which no one had ever been buried, in the Garden of Gethsemane, in the presence of the Mother of God and the holy Myrrh-Bearing Women (St Joseph had prepared this tomb for himself). Having rolled a heavy stone before the entrance of the tomb, they departed (John. 19: 37-42; Mt. 27: 57-61; Mark 15: 43-47; Luke. 24: 50-56).
Saint Joseph traveled around the world, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. He died peacefully in England.