8TH SUNDAY OF MATTHEW
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
8th Sunday of Matthew, Afterfeast of the Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, The Holy Righteous Martyr Dometius, Our Holy Father Nicanorus the Wonderworker, Theodosius the New, Joseph Gerontogiannis of Lithines Sitia, Sozon of Nicomedea, The Holy Ten Thousand Ascetics of Thebes, Narcissus the Hieromartyr of Jerusalem
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 1:10-17
Brethren, I appeal to you by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul, ” or “I belong to Apollos, ” or “I belong to Cephas, ” or “I belong to Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispos and Gaius; lest any one should say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any one else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
At that time, Jesus saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.
On the first day of the Afterfeast of the Transfiguration, the hymns of Vespers speak of the amazement of the Apostles when they saw Christ transfigured before them. The Savior’s equality with the Father is also stressed, for He who covers Himself with light as with a garment is now transfigured before His disciples, “shining more brightly than the sun.”
Saint Dometius lived in Persia during the fourth century. In his youth he was converted to the Faith by a Christian named Uaros. Forsaking Persia, he withdrew to the frontier city of Nisibis (in Mesopotamia), where he was baptized in one of the monasteries, and also received the monastic tonsure.
Fleeing the ill-will of some of the monks, Saint Dometius moved to the monastery of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in the city of Theodosiopolis. The monastery was under the guidance of an archimandrite named Urbelos, a strict ascetic, of whom it was said that for sixty years he did not taste cooked food, nor did he lay down for sleep, but rather took his rest standing up, supporting himself upon his staff.
In this monastery Saint Dometius was ordained a deacon, but when the archimandrite decided to have him made a presbyter, the saint, considering himself unworthy, hid himself on a desolate mountain in Syria, in the region of Cyrrhus.
Stories about him constantly spread among the local inhabitants. They began to come to him for healing and for help. Many pagans were brought to faith in Christ by Dometius. And one time, in the locality where Saint Dometius struggled with his disciples, the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) arrived, traveling on his campaign against the Persians. By order of the emperor, soldiers found Saint Dometius praying with his disciples in a cave, and walled them up alive inside.
The Uncovering of the Relics of Saint Metrophanes, Bishop of Voronezh (1832): The memory of the deep piety and pastoral virtues of Saint Metrophanes (Macarius, in the schema) was revered at Voronezh from the time of his death (November 23, 1703). His successors, the Voronezh hierarchs, considered it their sacred duty to make annual remembrance of the first hierarch of their flock, together with his parents, the priest Basil and Maria.
The people of Voronezh and its environs came to the Annunciation cathedral, where memorial services were offered at his tomb. Contributing to the intense remembrance of Saint Metrophanes was also his dying request that prayers be said for him. For this purpose the saint, even during his lifetime, had built a chapel at the cathedral in honor of the holy Archangel Michael (his patron saint), and in it a special priest served the Liturgy. Although succeeding generations did not know the saint, they also revered his memory.
The veracity of the sainthood of the first hierarch of the Voronezh diocese was also confirmed by his incorrupt relics, attested during their repeated transfers from one temple to another. In the year 1718, Metropolitan Pachomius of Voronezh, about to begin the construction of a new cathedral, gave orders to demolish the old Annunciation cathedral. The body of Saint Metrophanes was temporarily transferred into the church of the Unburnt Bush. In 1735, the body of Saint Metrophanes was transferred into the new cathedral, during which time the incorrupt state of his relics was again observed. At the place of the burial of the saint, panikhidas were customarily served for him.
By 1820 it was noticed that the number of those venerating Saint Metrophanes and thronging to Voronezh, had extraordinarily increased. Grace-filled signs also increased. Archbishop Anthony II of Voronezh made repeated reports to the Holy Synod about the miracles, and he petitioned for a resolution for the glorification of the saint. The Holy Synod then prescribed that records be kept of miracles at the grave of Saint Metrophanes. In the year 1831, after seeing the incorrupt body of the saint, Archbishop Anthony together with commission members of the Holy Synod, Archbishop Eugenius of Yaroslavl and Archimandrite Hermogenes of the Moscow Savior-Androniev monastery, became convinced in the miraculous intercession of Saint Metrophanes before the Throne of God. The Holy Synod then issued its resolution adding Saint Metrophanes to the ranks of the Saints. Since then, the Russian Church celebrates the memory of the saint twice during the year: November 23, the day of his repose, and August 7, the day of his glorification.
Archbishop Anthony II (1827-1846) established in the Voronezh also the following feastdays in honor of Saint Metrophanes: June 4, the Feast of his namesake Saint Metrophanes, Patriarch of Constantinople; April 2, the saint’s day of consecration as bishop in 1682; and December 11, the day of the transfer of the relics of Saint Metrophanes in 1831.
Saint Metrophanes left behind a Spiritual Testament. Its original is preserved in the State Historical Museum. Upon the testament is the unique authoritative signature of the saint: “This spiritual dictate is attested to by me… Bishop Metrophanes of Voronezh.”
On the lower cover (inside) is an inscription from the eighteenth century: “This is the book of testament or last will of the Voronezh schemamonk Macarius, written in the God-saved city of Voronezh, in the house of His Grace the bishop and schemamonk Macarius, who reposed in the month of November on the 23rd day in the year 1703, and was buried on the 4th day of December.”
On the day preceding the Uncovering of the Relics of Saint Metrophanes, Archbishop Anthony of Voronezh went to church, so as to lay out the new vestments prepared for the relics. Suddenly, he felt so weak that he was barely able to go about his cell. Troubled by this, he sat and pondered and then he heard a quiet voice: “ Do not transgress my legacy.”
This he did not understand right away, and instead thinking about his own plans, he gathered up his strength and opened the closet where the vestments were, and there he caught sight of the monastic schema, brought shortly before this by an unknown monk who had entrusted it to him and said that it soon would be needed.
Seeing this monastic schema, the hierarch then realized that the words, “Do not transgress my legacy,” was actually the will of Saint Metrophanes, that they not place upon his relics bishop’s vestments, but rather to clothe them in the schema. By this and by his extreme humility, he indicated the deep spiritual connection with his patronal saint (in schema), Saint Macarius of Unzhensk.
Saint Pimen the Much-ailing attained the Kingdom of Heaven by enduring grievous illness. This Russian ascetic was both born and grew up sickly, but his illness preserved him from illness of the soul.
For a long time he besought his parents to send him to the Kiev Caves monastery. When they brought their son to the famed monastery, they then began to pray for him to be healthy. But the sufferer himself, conscious of the high value of suffering, instead asked the Lord both for the continuation of his sickness, and also his tonsuring into monasticism.
One night, radiant angels appeared in the guise of monks, and tonsured him. They told him that he would receive his health only on the day of his death. Several of the brethren heard the sound of singing, and coming to Saint Pimen, they found him attired in monastic garb. In his hand he held a lit candle, and his tonsured hair could be seen at the crypt of Saint Theodosius. Saint Pimen spent many years in sickness, so that those attending to him could not tolerate it. They often left him without food and water for two or three days at a time, but he endured everything with joy.
Compassionate towards the brethren, Saint Pimen healed a certain crippled brother, who promised to serve him until death if he were healed. But after a while the brother grew lax in his service, and his former ailment overtook him. Saint Pimen again healed him with the advice, that both the sick and those attending the sick receive equal reward.
Saint Pimen spent twenty years in grievous sufferings. One day, as the angels had predicted, he became healthy. In church, the monk took leave of all the brethren and partook of the Holy Mysteries. Then, having bowed down before the grave of Abba Anthony, Saint Pimen indicated the place for his burial, and he himself carried his bed there.
Pointing to those buried there, one after the other of the monks, he predicted that the brethren would find one buried in the schema to be without it, since this monk had led a life unworthy of it. Another monk, who had been buried without the schema, would be found clothed in it after death, since he had greatly desired it during his life, and he was worthy.
Then Saint Pimen lay down upon his bed and fell asleep in the Lord. The brethren buried him with great honor, glorifying God.
After the death of Saint Pimen, the brethren were persuaded of the truth of his words. On the day of Saint Pimen’s repose, three fiery columns appeared over the trapeza, and moved atop the church. A similar event was described in the chronicles under February 11, 1110 (See the August 5 commemoration of Saint Theoctistus of Chernigov), therefore the day of demise of Saint Pimen is surmised as also occurring on February 11, 1110.
The relics of Saint Pimen rest in the Antoniev Cave.
A second commemoration of the saint is made on September 28, the Synaxis of the Monks of the Near Caves.
Saint Pimen, Faster of the Caves, labored in the Far Caves. His abstinence was such that he ate food only once a day, and only in the most necessary quantity. His outward fasting corresponded to an inward abstemiousness from any actions, thoughts or feelings, displeasing to God. Saint Pimen was igumen of the Kiev Caves monastery from 1132 to 1141. A second commemoration of the saint occurs on August 28.
Saint Mercurius of Kiev Caves Lavra was an ascetic in the Far Caves of Saint Theodosios during the XIV century, and was a strict observer of the Church's fasts.
He probably succeeded Bishop Lazarus as the Bishop of Smolensk, and with his flock, he experienced the horrors of Batu's invasion in 1347, during which he was killed. As he was dying, he ordered that the coffin containing his body should be sent down the Dnieper River and carried wherever it happened to land. Miraculously, the coffin came to rest at the Kiev Caves Monastery, and the Saint was buried in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony.
During his lifetime, Saint Mercurius had a deep spiritual bond with Saint Paisios of the Far Caves (July 19). When they died, they were buried in the same grave, but now their holy relics are in separate reliquaries.
Saint Mercurius, who glorified God by his words and his actions while on earth, now glorifies Him before His heavenly Throne.
The Church remembers Saint Mercurius on November 24 because of his patron Saint, the holy Great Martyr Mercurius. He is also commemorated on August 28 (the Synaxis of the Saints of the Far Caves); and on the second Sunday of Great Lent (the Synaxis of all the monastic Fathers of the Kiev Caves).
The Holy Martyr Marinus (December 16) was a soldier during the reign of the pagan emperors Valerian (253-259) and his son Gallienus (260-268).
When he was about to be promoted to centurion, Marinus refused to swear the customary oath invoking the pagan gods, or to offer sacrifice to idols. Saint Marinus was beheaded in Caesarea Philippi after cruel tortures.
Saint Asterius also happened to be present at the sufferings of the Martyr Marinus. When the execution was over, he took off his senatorial garb, spread it upon the ground and wrapped the head and body of Saint Marinus in it. On his own shoulders he carried the martyr’s relics to the grave and reverently consigned them to earth. For doing this, he was himself sentenced to death and beheaded in the year 260.
The Holy Martyr Asterius the Senator lived during the reign of the pagan emperors Valerian (253-259) and his son Gallienus (260-268). Although he was a Roman senator, Asterius nonetheless held firmly to the Christian Faith, in spite of the persecutions occurring during those times.
Once, while in Palestine, he came to the city of Caesarea Philippi, where by custom a pagan feast was made with the offering of sacrifice to an idol. The demon residing in the idol made the sacrifice disappear, and this was looked upon as a great wonder. Saint Asterius expelled the demon by prayer. The sacrifice ceased to be invisible, and the pagans ceased to celebrate this impious festival.
Saint Asterius also happened to be present at the sufferings of the Martyr Marinus (December 16). When the execution was over, he took off his senatorial garb, spread it upon the ground and wrapped the head and body of Saint Marinus in it. On his own shoulders he carried the martyr’s relics to the grave and reverently consigned them to earth. For doing this, he was himself sentenced to death and beheaded in the year 260.
Saint Horus in his youth withdrew into the Thebaid desert and struggled in complete solitude for many years, leading the life of a strict hermit. Having advanced in years, Saint Horus was granted to see an angel, who announced that the Lord had destined him for the salvation of the many people who would seek his guidance.
After this, the monk began to accept everyone who came to him for advice and help. The Lord granted him a gift of reading the Holy Scriptures, despite the fact that the saint since childhood had not been taught reading and writing.
Gradually, a large monastery formed around Saint Horus, in which the holy Elder was the spiritual guide. The monk never entered the trapeza for food, nor did he eat on the day of partaking of the Holy Mysteries. He often taught the brethren by means of stories about the temptations which might beset a monk living in solitude. But he always told them in such a way that everyone would know that he was speaking of desert-dwellers personally known to him. The saint concealed his own ascetic exploits.
Once, when the saint still lived with only one disciple, he brought to the Elder’s attention the approach of Holy Pascha. Saint Horus immediately stood up at prayer, and raising his hands, he stood thus for three days under the open sky, in unceasing prayer. He then explained to his disciple that for a monk every feastday, and especially Pascha, is celebrated by removing oneself from everything mundane, and lifting up one’s mind to unity with God.
All the thoughts and deeds of his disciples was revealed to Saint Horus, and no one dared to lie to him. Having survived well into old age, Saint Horus founded several monasteries, comprising altogether as many as 1,000 monastics. He died at age 90 in about the year 390.
The Holy Martyr Potamia the Wonderworker died under the sword. Sometimes the saint is incorrectly listed as Saint Potamius the Wonderworker.
Saint Dometius was an Athonite Elder. He pursued silence at the Philotheou monastery together with the Hieromartyr Damian of Philotheou (February 23), who suffered under cruel tortures by the Turks in the year 1568.
One of the greatest treasures in the possession of the Monastery of New Valamo in Heinävesi, Finland is the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God of Valaam. Painted on lime wood, the 132 x 79.5 cm icon depicts the Virgin Mary as a full-length figure standing on a cloud with lowered gaze, clothed in a bright red cloak and a dark turquoise undergarment. She is holding the Christ child, who is dressed in a thin, pale yellow smock, on her left arm. With her right hand, she points to Christ, in the style of the “Hodēgḗtria” icons of the Mother of God. Christ blesses with His right hand and holds an orb, surmounted by a cross, in His left hand, signifying that He is the Creator of the world and King of all.
According to the inscription, the icon was painted in 1878, “the work of the monks of Valaam.” It is customarily attributed, however, to Father Alipy, one of the leading iconographers at the original Valaam Monastery in Lake Ladoga in Russian Karelia. Father Alipy painted the icon only a few years after he arrived at the monastery, before he had become a novice there. He was tonsured to monastic orders in 1884 and ordained as priestmonk in 1893.
Following the conventions of the late 19th century, the icon was painted in a “naturalistic” style, employing a technique that combined the use of tempera and oils.
Originally, the icon was to have been placed in the Valaam Monastery’s Church of the Dormition. This never occurred, however, and subsequently the icon was misplaced. In 1897, the icon was rediscovered and gained its miracle-working reputation on the strength of a succession of visions of the Mother of God experienced by an elderly woman with serious rheumatoid arthritis, Natalia Andreyevna Andreyeva, who was cured of her illness.
Despite the Valaam Monastery’s long history, it had never had an icon of the Mother of God of its own design, although Father Alipy’s icon came to occupy such a position in subsequent years. In the turmoil of World War II, the icon was transported to safety in Finland, along with many other treasures from Valaam and the majority of the monks. It now occupies a prominent position in the Church of the Transfiguration of Our Lord at the New Valaam Monastery.
In 1987, the bishops of the autonomous Orthodox Church of Finland established an annual feast in the Valaam Icon’s honor on August 7. The troparion and kontakion for the feast were written by the late Archbishop Paul of Finland.
On July 29, 2005, the Valaam Icon of the Mother of God was brought for the first time to North America by His Eminence, Archbishop Leo of Karelia and All Finland.
“Mother dear, is it true that you live at Valaam?”
The story of the icon of the Mother of God of Valaam, as recorded in 1897
In a corner behind the choir enclosure on the south side of the lower main church at the monastery of Valaam, where the miracle-working remains of the monastery’s founders, the Saints Sergei and Herman of Valaam, lie at rest interred in the rock, stands an icon of the All-Holy Mother of God. This full length image of the Queen of Heaven holding the divine child in her arms is known as the icon of the Mother of God of Valaam. It is a work of considerable artistic merit that was painted by a local artist-monk and later hieromonk, Father Alipi, in 1878. Nowadays this icon is one of the most cherished objects of reverence at Valaam.
As if by some divine providence, no suitable place could be found for the icon at first when it was finished, and it was placed in the entrance hall to the upper main church, where it remained until that church was demolished to make way for a new one. At that stage the majority of the icons, including this one, were taken to the Church of the Dormition of the Mother of God, where the monastery held its regular services until the lower main church was completed. The icon was hung in a relatively high position on a pillar to the left of the entrance to the church.
When the lower main church was ready for consecration, all the icons that had been moved to the Church of the Dormition were returned to it, but again, for some inexplicable reason known only to God, no place could be found for this one. As scarcely any services were held in the Church of the Dormition any longer, this icon, along with some others, was placed in temporary storage in the Church of Saint Nicholas the Miracle-Worker. There it lay forgotten for many years, until it was moved to its present place in response to a vision experienced by a holy woman servant of God. The story of the indescribable act of grace bestowed upon this woman by the Queen of Heaven is recounted below in her own words.
‘I am a member of the peasant estate from the village of Zarino in the parish of Paskina, part of the district of Korchevski within the province of Tver. My name is Natalia Andreyevna Andreyeva. I am now sixty-four years of age and live in Saint Petersburg, in the Brusnitsyn old peoples’ home, at Kosaya Line no. 15 on Vasili Island. I was placed in this home, through the grace of God, by the lady in whose service I was a serf in former days.
In the year 1878 or 1879 I caught a bad cold on one occasion when washing clothes and developed rheumatism in my arms and legs. I began to seek treatment for this, but my health became worse year by year. I went to the Mariski Hospital for massage for a long time, but it didn’t help, and I went to the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna’s clinic opposite the Tauria gardens for as long as I could. I was more or less a cripple for most of the winter. All my money went on doctors’ fees and medicines, but the Lord God didn’t look kindly on my afflictions. In the end I was told that my illness had reached the stage of serious rheumatoid arthritis and that the only way of curing it was to go to a spa and take warm water baths.
What could I do? By that time I could scarcely afford to eat, so how could I find the money for treatment at a spa? And so, sinner that I am, I began to pray ardently to the Mother of God that in her mercy she would help me in my sufferings. I could walk only with great difficulty, leaning on a stick, and I had such pains in my hands and arms from time to time that I could no longer hold on to the stick. Sometimes I could make my way into the Church of the Sign only by crawling up the steps on all fours. I lived as a beggar, on food that people gave me as alms. This went on until 1887.
At that point my former mistress heard about my pitiful state and invited me to come and live with her at Käkisalmi in the province of Viipuri in Finland and look after her children as far as my health would permit. There was no other work that I could think of doing in the condition that I was in. The family was not a rich one, and so I was not to receive any wages for this – but, thank God, at least I was sure of food and a roof over my head.
While I was at Käkisalmi I heard many accounts of the miraculous cures that had taken place at the tomb of the Saints Sergei and Herman of Valaam, and this aroused a powerful desire in me to visit Valaam and prostrate myself before the tomb of these saints who had been acceptable unto the Lord and entreat their help in my serious state of illness. I had heard a lot about Valaam earlier, while I was living in Saint Petersburg, and I had often thought of visiting the monastery to pay reverence to its founder saints, but in all the vanities of life I had never got round to it. The main reason had been the cost of the journey, of course, but now the monastery was closer. Also, there was an inner voice speaking to me all the time, “Go to Valaam and be cured!”
I could no longer resist this desire, and I asked the lady of the house for leave to go there. As I had no money at all, I pawned my warm scarf for four roubles and started to make preparations for the journey.
As the day of departure approached I began to feel uneasy and distressed. I was an old woman who was utterly sick and lacking in strength. How could I travel alone? I had very little money, only just enough for the journey. How could I set out at all on such a journey? And if something were to happen, what would a poor creature like me do then? Thoughts like this began to haunt me until I was quite distraught.
The night before I set out I just lay on my bed and wept. What should I do? I wanted so much to make this journey, but still I was frightened for some reason. Then – I don’t know whether I was asleep or awake – I saw quite clearly a tall woman clad in pink velvet and with a child in her arms, surrounded by an amazing light. The thought immediately struck me, could this be the Mother of God? I didn’t dare to call out to her by that name, though. I wanted to go to her, but she stepped back and said, “Don’t weep. The Saviour is coming, and I am coming to you!”
Then I said to her, “Mother dear, how beautiful and good you are! Is it true that you live at Valaam?”
“Yes, I live there. You will see me at Valaam!” After that the vision disappeared, but now that the Mother of God had spoken to me it was as if a stone had been lifted from my heart. My mind was at ease and all my fears had been swept away.
The next day the ship came and I set out joyfully on my journey. The old ladies sitting beside me began to offer me food and drink, one bread, another tea and yet another coffee, so that I was not short of anything all the way. It was a happy journey. The only problem was that my legs were very painful because of the rocking of the ship. At Valaam they were celebrating not only the annual feast of the Saints Sergei and Herman but also the laying of the foundation stone for a new church. There were a huge number of pilgrims there, and also the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and his wife the Duchess. There were throngs of people everywhere.
Once I had arrived and rested after the strenuous journey, I made my way to the tomb of the Saints Sergei and Herman and prayed there ardently so that the tears streamed from my eyes. I asked the saints who had been acceptable unto God to help me, to grant me, sinful as I was, relief from my illness. I spent the last coins that I had on a short service of prayer to them, so that I had nothing left but twenty kopecks and my return fare.
The evening service was held in the Church of the Dormition, and the crowd was so enormous that with my illness, I stood no chance of pushing my way into the church but had to stand, or rather sit, in the entrance.
The following day I had to return home. I would have liked to stay there longer to pray, but I couldn’t, as even a few days would have cost so much that I would not have had any money for the fare home.
Just before the ship was due to leave, some unseen force began to drive me back to the Church of the Dormition once more to pray. Although I was frightened of missing the ship, I didn’t dare to resist this inner voice which ordered me into the church, so I gathered up all my strength and practically ran back there.
As soon as I stepped into the church I involuntarily looked to the left – and stood rooted to the spot. My legs went weak beneath me, and I would certainly have fallen down if it hadn’t been for the railings beside the stairs leading to the upper church.
The reason for my surprise and bewilderment was something quite miraculous. Hanging on the pillar to the left of the door, in a golden frame, and looking at me was the Mother of God! And what was more, I recognised in Her the same figure who had appeared to me in a dream on the eve of my departure for Valaam and strengthened my failing spirit for the journey. I couldn’t take my eyes off the icon, and I became more and more convinced that this was the same dear mother who had been gracious enough to visit me in a dream. I recognised Her radiant face and Her merciful gaze. Even Her clothing was the same, and She held the Child in just the same way as I had seen in my dream.
As soon as I had recalled all this I wanted to have a service of prayer for the Mother of God and to kiss Her holy icon, but this was evidently not a suitable moment for Her, as our defender, to receive my unworthy prayers. The ship’s siren sounded in the distance, announcing its departure, and the icon was hung so high up that it was impossible for me to kiss it. I just had time to buy a candle with my last twenty kopecks and place it in front of the icon. Then, with tears in my eyes, I had to leave for the ship.
It was only during the voyage that I recovered my composure. I was delighted beyond words with this miracle that had been granted to me, a sinner, although I was also saddened by the fact that I had seen the icon of the All-Holy Mother of God only in the last few minutes before leaving Valaam. This had evidently been Her wish.
* * * * * * * *
A few days after I arrived back in Käkisalmi I began to feel much better. I could walk without a stick and do little jobs around the house. I resolved at once to go back to the monastery again at the first opportunity to thank God and the holy fathers and definitely to have a service of prayer said in front of the icon of the Mother of God. But the Lord determined otherwise.
The lady in whose house I was living decided to move into the country, and I had to go back to Saint Petersburg again and rely on assistance from the good people there. The years went by. My life was a hard one, and I was often facing hunger. My illness became worse, and I again had to walk with a stick. I prayed ardently to the Mother of God for help. Then, in 1896, nine years after my visit to Valaam, I came home from Vespers one Saturday evening, said my prayers and went to bed. Again I had a dream. The Mother of God appeared to me in exactly the same form as on the first occasion, and said, “So your enthusiasm has waned and you’ve forgotten your promise to return to Valaam. You were shown the way, but you didn’t follow it.”
“I am poor,” I answered, “I haven’t the money.”
“You find money for everything else, but not for this. Alas, this is a bitter disappointment for me,” the Mother of God complained.
I was horrified at this vision. I had evidently offended our dear mother. What was I to do now? Suddenly I heard that my former mistress had recently returned to Saint Petersburg, and so I went to her and told her the reason for my sorrow. She again came to my rescue – may God grant her all his goodness – and unexpectedly gave me five roubles. With these I was able to travel to Valaam at once.
As soon as I reached the monastery I went to the new church to pray at the tomb of the founder saints, and then to the Church of the Dormition to pray to the Mother of God. To my great sorrow, however, I couldn’t find Her icon where it had been on the first occasion. I began to ask the monks where it was, and the former treasurer Father Evgeni advised me to ask the master of the church furnishings, Father Pafnuti, who was responsible for all the icons. Even he couldn’t tell me exactly where the icon of the Mother of God that had been in the Church of the Dormition now was, and thought it might have been sent to the monastery’s chapel on Vasili Island in Saint Petersburg. I was very, very upset that I had not found my Queen of Heaven, and shed many bitter tears as I prayed to the Mother of God and the Saints Sergei and Herman that they would not abandon me in my sin.
I stayed at Valaam for two and a half weeks, looking everywhere for the icon, but I couldn’t find it. My health was poor, and my soul weighed heavy within me. Eventually I went back to Saint Petersburg and called at the Valaam chapel on Vasili Island, but the icon was not there, either. I was more grief-stricken than ever.
Another year passed, and my illness began to grow worse again, so that I could scarcely walk even with a stick. I had scrimped and saved all year and gradually collected the kopecks together for another journey to Valaam. I set out to spend the feast of Saint Peter at the monastery and to look for the icon of the Mother of God once again.
Although I was exhausted by the time I arrived, I prayed earnestly at the tomb of the founder saints and with tears in my eyes prayed to the Mother of God that she would show me where I could find Her blessed icon. And my prayer was answered.
That night I had another dream. I was walking through the yard of the monastery and past the now abandoned Church of Saint Nicholas. I was crying and praying to the Mother of God, “Oh mother dear, if only I could see you once more!” I was greatly surprised, but I went on praying.
Again I heard a voice, but this time it was someone else’s. “What are you so sad about? What are you looking for?” I turned round and there was a grey-bearded old monk in a blue biretta standing behind me.
“I am looking for the Mother of God,” I replied.
“Wait. We will find Her.”
“How can you find Her so quickly,” I asked, “when Father Pafnuti searched for three weeks without finding her?”
“He searched in the wrong places. He had forgotten where She is,” the old monk said.
I followed him to a door. “This door is closed,” I said.
He opened it. “She is in here.”
I looked into the inside of the church, and in one corner, amidst a heap of furnishings and old icons, was the icon of the Mother of God, half wrapped in a linen cloth and sacking. I recognised it at once as the icon I was looking for. “Here She is!” I exclaimed in a loud voice. It was then that the other women in the same room woke me up.
The next day, a Wednesday, I went to the Liturgy early in the morning, after which Father Pafnuti conducted a service of prayer at the tomb of the founder saints. I told him about my dream. “In the name of God, forgive me,” he said. “I looked for the icon at first and then forgot all about it. I will go and search for it at once. Now I remember. I’m sure it’s in the Church of Saint Nicholas the Miracle-Worker.”
I intended to take Communion on the Saturday, and the night before I had another dream. It was as if I were standing alone in the lower church. There were just two monks beside the founders’ tomb, Father Seraphim and Father Nikolai. I was waiting impatiently for something and could not take my eyes off the outer door. Suddenly the door opened and the icon of the Mother of God was carried in by Father Pafnuti and a young monk in a short, grey cassock. “There She is, my dear mother!” I cried, and threw myself on the floor, thinking that the icon would be carried over me and I would be made well. But Father Pufnuti said, “There is nothing ready for you here. We have to hold a short service to bless the holy water before a sick person can be made well.” And at that I awoke.
In the morning I took Communion. I told Father Pafnuti of my dream and, sobbing, entreated him to go and look for the icon. Before the later Liturgy I was in a chapel when I suddenly saw a crowd of people hurrying from the hotel to the church. “What is happening?” I asked. They told me that the missing icon of the Mother of God had been found and that it was being taken to the lower church. I went into the church and saw the icon on the steps in front of the iconostasis.
“Is this the icon you meant?” Father Pafnuti asked me.
“Yes, this is the one,” I replied.
“Then be comforted and pray to the Holy Mother of God,” he said. I asked him to hold a service of prayer to the Mother of God, and he did so, with a blessing of water as well, and lit a lamp in front of the icon.
Hieromonk Alipi was reading a service of prayer at the tomb of the founder saints just then, and I was told that it was he who had painted the icon. I went to him and bowed down to the ground before him. My breath stuck in my throat and tears streamed down my cheeks from the sheer joy of finding at last the icon of the Mother of God who had appeared to me, and I gave thanks to the Lord with all my heart for the unspeakable mercy he had shown to me.
The holy water was poured into a bottle for me, and when I drank it I felt my strength return. I took some oil from the lamp and went to my room. There I spread it on my hands and feet. The pain abated, and for the first time for many years I was able to sleep peacefully. I week later I could walk without a stick.
After giving thanks with all my soul and from the bottom of my heart to the Mother of God for the miracle that She had worked on me in my unworthiness, I returned to Saint Petersburg. I began to gain in strength all the time without any medicine, and by Easter I had completely recovered. It was then that I decided that I would buy a lamp for the icon. By the grace of God I managed to gather together eight roubles from the little that I had, but a lamp cost ten roubles. Then a friend of mine who had bought a charity lottery ticket promised that if she won she would give me the two roubles I needed, and she did win a gold watch, so that I was able to buy the lamp and send it to the monastery. Many people asked me to give them a photograph of the icon. Now I am in perfect health. I can do washing and scrub floors, and I have even been helping with the haymaking at the Konevits Monastery. I have no pain at all in my legs. Altogether the illness lasted twelve years. At one time I couldn’t even get my arms into the sleeves of my clothes, and sometimes I could only climb steps by crawling on my hands and knees. I shed countless tears at such times and prayed to the Mother of God that I might be cured. Now I am healthy again and have everything that I need. There are even good people around me who have put me in an old people’s home. Glory be to the Queen of Heaven!’
Natalia Andreyevna’s story of the discovery of the icon in the abandoned Church of Saint Nicholas is thoroughly plausible. It would have been impossible for her to know anything about the contents of the church or about the objects stored there beforehand. The church is kept closed and no people other than the monastery staff are allowed into it. Everything really happened as she had seen in her dream. Following her instructions, Father Pafnuti went into the church, found the icon in a corner and brought it to the lower main church. There he placed it on the right-hand side of the church, on a pillar behind the right-hand choir enclosure, where it has been to this day. And by some miraculous means the person who helped Father Pufnuti carry the icon was indeed dressed in a short, grey cassock.
Natalia Andreyevna released this account of her visions on 7th August 1897, and it was written down in the present form on 26th July 1898.
Saint Anthony (Putilov) was born on March 9, 1795 in the town of Romanov in the Yaroslavl province, and was baptized with the name Alexander. His siblings were called Timothy, Jonah, Basil, Cyril, and Anysia. John Putilov named all his children after the saint commemorated on the eighth day after their birth, so the future Saint Anthony was named for the holy hieromartyr Alexander the Bishop of Rome (March 16). The children were educated at home, since their parents feared they would be corrupted in some way if they were sent away to school.
From an early age, Alexander was quiet and modest, disdaining the noisy games of other children. It is not surprising that he should be inclined toward monasticism even as a child, because his great-grandfather Joel had been a hierodeacon at the Serpukhov Monastery, and his cousin Maximilla was a nun in the Annunciation women’s monastery in Moscow.
When Alexander was ten years old, his brothers Timothy and Jonah entered the Sarov Monastery. They wrote to him and sent him spiritual books, which he enjoyed reading. When he was only thirteen, he wrote to them expressing the wish to become a monk like them.
The young Alexander endured many trials and illnesses during his childhood, and on ten separate occasions he was in danger of losing his life. Once he nearly drowned, another time he fell and fractured his skull. He had several other close calls, yet God spared his life, forseeing something better for him (Hebrews 11:40).
After his father’s death in 1809, Alexander went to work for the merchant Karpishev in Moscow, for whom his older brothers had also worked. He lived in Moscow only three years, but he remembered the location of all the city’s holy places and wonderworking icons for the rest of his life.
On September 2, 1812, he tried to flee Moscow during Napoleon’s invasion, but it was too late to escape. A Pole on horseback pointed a pistol at Alexander and stole his money. Later, French soldiers robbed him of his watch and most of his clothing, and held him prisoner for ten days. During his captivity he consoled himself with the words of Saint John Chrysostom, who said that the worst sufferings on earth are nothing compared to the least sufferings in hell.
After learning that there were Russian soldiers outside of Moscow, Alexander escaped on September 12 while it was raining. He found a group of Russians, including some of his relatives. They walked through forests and swamps by night, and hid from the French by day. Eventually, Alexander arrived at the home of some relatives in Rostov. Not knowing what had become of his brothers, he took a job similar to the one he had in Moscow.
Alexander loved to visit the Saint James Monastery in Rostov, where the relics of Saint Demetrius of Rostov (October 28) were enshrined. By the end of 1815, circumstances finally permitted him to withdraw from the world. First, however, he arranged for his older brother Basil to marry, choosing a suitable and pious bride for him.
At the end of 1815, Alexander went to Moscow to visit the various churches and monasteries. He prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos and to all the saints, asking that his intention to become a monk might be blessed. From Moscow, he traveled to Kaluga, and then to the Roslavl forests in Smolensk province where his brother Father Moses had been living for about five years.
Alexander consulted with his brother about his desire to enter the monastery at Sarov, and decided to remain with Father Moses until spring. He was made a novice on January 15, 1816. In the spring, Alexander decided he would remain a while longer. Several months later, he went with Father Moses on pilgrimage to Kiev. On their return trip the brothers stopped at several monasteries, conversing with many Elders about the spiritual life. Alexander was not inclined to enter any of them, however.
Back in the Roslavl forests, Alexander realized that he did not want to leave his brother. He had come only for a brief visit, but ended up staying with Father Moses for the next twenty-four years.
Despite the many illnesses of his childhood, Alexander was blessed with great physical strength, and devoted himself to seemingly impossible ascetic labors. The brothers would get up at midnight and read through the cycle of services without omissions, and so Alexander became familiar with the church Typikon. He copied out patristic texts by hand, and helped his brother compile extracts from various sources in order to provide a system of rules for the Christian life. Out of reverence for these spiritual books, the brothers remained standing when they read or copied them. Alexander spent so much time standing on his feet that he damaged his legs, which caused him pain for the rest of his life.
As the youngest member of the community, Alexander had to get up before the others in order to wake them. He chopped wood, carried water, worked in the vegetable garden, and still fulfilled his daily rule of prayer.
After a trial period of four years, Alexander was tonsured by Father Athanasius on February 2, 1820 and was given the name Anthony. He was also placed under the spiritual guidance of Father Moses.
In 1821 Bishop Philaret of Kaluga (later Metropolitan of Kiev) decided to establish a skete at Optina Monastery for experienced ascetics who wished to live in silence. He had met Father Moses at Optina in 1820 where they were introduced by Igumen Daniel. The bishop offered him the opportunity to move to his diocese and establish a skete at Optina, and Father Moses accepted.
On June 3, 1821 Father Moses left the Roslavl forests with Father Anthony, and the monks Hilarion and Sabbatius. The Elders Athanasius and Dorotheus decided to remain behind until the skete was completely ready. For the rest of his life Father Anthony would always remember his five years in the Roslavl forests with a special joy.
On June 6 Saint Anthony arrived at Optina with the other monks. The site they selected for the skete was 400 yards from the monastery’s eastern side. They cleared the land of trees and built a cell and a church dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. Saint Moses was appointed igumen, and on August 24, 1823 Anthony was ordained as a deacon.
Saint Anthony was placed in charge of the skete when his brother was made Superior of Optina Monastery in 1825. For the next fourteen years the skete flourished under Anthony. Wise Elders and experienced ascetics were attracted to the hesychast skete by the fame of Father Moses. Saint Leonid (October 11) came from the Saint Anthony of Svir monastery with five of his disciples in 1829. Saint Macarius (September 7) came from Ploschansk monastery in 1834 at the invitation of Father Moses.
With the help of Father Leonid and Father Macarius, Father Moses and Father Anthony introduced the ancient monastic tradition of eldership at the skete and monastery. Saint Anthony was an example of obedience to others. Though he was Superior of the skete, he never made any decisions or gave any orders without the blessing of his own Elder, Father Moses.
At first, life in the skete was very difficult. There were not enough monks to do all the work, so Father Anthony carried his own water and firewood. He also worked on the grounds, cleared paths, took his turn serving in church, and greeted visitors. The hard work made him appreciate the simple food served in the trapeza. Sometimes a benefactor would donate wheat loaves for the brethren, but most days they ate black bread.
Father Anthony suffered from various afflictions throughout his life. His legs pained him because of his continual standing. He also had eye trouble, and even lost his sight for a brief time. In 1836, while hurrying to the monastery along a forest path for the midnight paschal service, Father Anthony stubbed his right foot on a tree stump. His legs were already sore from years of standing, and now they developed open sores.The inflammation in his legs prevented him from leaving his cell for six months.
He bore all these trials with patience and humility, believing that illness is sometimes given to us by God in order to heal the infirmities of the soul. When anything unpleasant happened to him, he remained meek and calm. He offered thanks to God because his sickness gave him more time for reading spiritual books for the benefit of his soul.
On November 30, 1839 Bishop Nicholas of Kaluga summoned Father Anthony, and appointed him as igumen of the Maloyaroslavets Monastery. He had hoped to remain at the skete for the rest of his lfe, but in spite of his sorrow at leaving Optina, he went obediently to his new assignment.
By the mercy of God, three Putilov brothers were now serving as igumens of monasteries: Moses at Optina, Anthony at Maloyaroslavets, and Isaiah at Sarov. Father Moses seemed to have the least difficulty in bearing the sorrows and labors of his office. The others sometimes found it difficult to fulfill their duties and provide for the needs of the monastery.
After five years in the forest and eighteen years at the skete, Father Anthony found life at Maloyaroslavets monastery like living in the midst of a noisy city. The monks did not share the same oneness of mind as the Optina monks. Besides this, Father Anthony was so ill that he was not able to observe what was going on in the monastery, and he had to issue his orders through others. After only a few days he became depressed at his situation. One night Saint Metrophanes of Voronezh (November 23) appeared to him in a dream and blessed him. He said, “You have been in Paradise and you know it. Now work, pray, and don’t be lazy.” From that time, Father Anthony felt himself to be under the saint’s special care.
Father Anthony zealously devoted himself to improving the spiritual life of the monastery, but he was not happy there. More than once he wrote to the bishop and asked to be allowed to retire. The bishop, however, would not hear of it. Father Anthony also wrote to Father Moses to express his sorrow and his desire to be relieved of his duties. Father Moses told him that he could not abandon his responsibilities, for that would insult the monastery, and would also grieve the bishop and Father Moses himself. He chastised his brother, saying that in seeking deliverance from his sorrows, Anthony was placing his own will in opposition to the will of God.
Father Anthony accepted the rebuke of Father Moses and learned to bear his cross with meekness, and to place all his trust in God. Finally, in 1853, Bishop Gregory of Kaluga relieved Father Anthony of his duties, and permitted him to retire to Optina.
Father Anthony arrived back at his beloved Optina on February 12, 1853, and was given a cell near Father Moses. Although he continued to suffer from physical ailments, he bore them with exemplary patience. He went to church for all the services, and took his meals with the brethren. Since he continued his prolonged standing, his legs became covered with sores. The writer I.V. Kieryevsky told Father Anthony that he fulfilled the words of Scripture: “Whom the Lord loves, He chastises” (Hebrews 12:6). Father Anthony retorted, “Many are the scourges of the sinner” (Psalm 31/32:10).
He never complained about his sufferings, even though they prevented him from leaving his cell for weeks at a time. If he could not be at the church services, he would read his rule of prayer in his cell at the very time the services were taking place.
Only those experienced in the spiritual life themselves could understand what spiritual gifts God had granted Father Anthony, which he tried to conceal from everyone. There is reason to believe that he saw visions, and attained great spiritual heights. When he was serving the Liturgy, his face seemed to radiate such grace that those who merely looked at him felt that their souls were transformed.
After services in the church and prayers in his cell, Father Anthony devoted himself to his favorite occupation—reading. He loved the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, and also enjoyed other books of a spiritual or historical nature. He gave over 2,000 of his books to the monastery library, and he had read every single one. He made notes on what he read, and also copied excerpts from books and magazines for the benefit of his spiritual children.
The Elder was blessed with a remarkable memory. Not only could he remember everything he had read for many years afterward, he also remembered who had visited him on a particular day, and what their conversation had been about.
Saint Anthony knew how to balance strictness with a certain amount of compassion for human weakness. He would not bless anyone to depart from the Church’s norms, however. He was very strict concerning spiritual matters in general, and especially the teachings and canons of the Church. He himself believed in the Church’s teachings and kept its precepts, and he required the same faith and obedience from his spiritual children.
Father Anthony’s retirement at Optina lasted for twelve years. When Father Moses reposed in 1862, Father Anthony was stricken with grief. For the first forty days he secluded himself in his cell, constantly reading the Psalter for his newly-departed brother. For about a year, he avoided people as much as he could, and prayed for Father Moses. He refused to speak to anyone about the hidden spiritual life of Father Moses, but he did reveal to a few people that he remained in spiritual contact with his brother even after his death.
In 1863, Father Anthony went on a pilgrimage to venerate the relics of the newly-glorified Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk (August 13) and Saint Metrophanes of Voronezh. He also visited several other monasteries, and some families who loved him. Upon returning to Optina, Father Anthony began to prepare for his departure from this world, and on March 9, 1865, at the age of seventy, he received the Great Schema.
On June 24, 1865, the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist and the Skete’s Feast Day, Igumen Anthony attended Liturgy in the skete church for the last time. He was growing weaker day by day, and in July he began to suffer from typhoid fever. As a result, he was able to sleep only for brief periods.Still, he continued to receive visitors, giving advice and instructions, and revealing to some that he was about to die.
The Elder received Holy Unction on July 21 and received Holy Communion every day. In his last days he asked to be sprinkled with holy water from Theophany, and requested that his bed and his room also be sprinkled. This brought him great comfort. He said, “How necessary is this sprinkling. The grace of God is present.”
Saint Anthony was not afraid of death, but awaited it in a spirit of joy and peace, surrendering himself to the will of God. He asked that his schema and the other garments in which he wanted to be buried be laid out and ready. He also started distributing his belongings to others as a remembrance.
After Liturgy on August 6, some of the brethren came to his cell to sing the troparion and kontakion for the Transfiguration. The next day he asked to be clothed in the full garb of a schemamonk. Due to his weakness, however, this could not be done. They placed the schema over him, and that satisfied him.
That evening Saint Anthony asked to see the Superior, and sought his blessing for his final journey. Father Isaac blessed him and took leave of him. Then the Elder asked Father Isaac to ring the bell three times. In monasteries this is normally done after someone has died, so his request seemed rather unusual. However, in 1863 Saint Anthony had compiled a collection of prayers for those who were incurably ill, with prayers for the departed. In this collection he stipulated that the bell be rung three or more times “to announce to the brethren that the sick brother is departing” so that they might pray for him.
The Canon for the Departure of a Soul was read for him, and when it was completed he lay silent for a while. Suddenly he looked to the right and to the left in a threatening manner, and even raised his left fist. Those present became fearful, for they believed that he saw something which their eyes could not see. Perhaps they recalled that many of the saints had seen demons just before they died. One of the spiritual Fathers of the monastery blessed him three times with a hand cross. The holy Elder sighed three times, then departed to the Lord.
The funeral took place on August 10, and was attended by many people. Although Saint Anthony wanted to be buried in the new cemetery, the Archishop ordered that he be buried next to his brother Saint Moses in the side altar of the monastery’s Cathedral (katholikon).
The Moscow Patriarchate authorized local veneration of the Optina Elders on June 13,1996. The work of uncovering the relics of Saints Leonid, Macarius, Hilarion, Ambrose, Anatole I, Barsanuphius and Anatole II began on June 24/July 7, 1998 and was concluded the next day. However, because of the church Feasts (Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, etc.) associated with the actual dates of the uncovering of the relics, Patriarch Alexey II designated June 27/July 10 as the date for commemorating this event. The relics of the holy Elders now rest in the new church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.
The Optina Elders were glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate for universal veneration on August 7, 2000.
Saint Theodora of Sihla, who is one of the greatest of Romania’s women ascetics, was born in the village of Vânatori in Neamts County in the first half of the seventeenth century, and was one of the two daughters of Stephen Joldea and his wife.
In her youth, Saint Theodora experienced a great trial in her family. Her sister, Marghiolitsa, died in a tragic way. This event deeply affected the saint. At this time, the thought of abandoning the world blossomed in her heart. She wished to do penance for her parents, for her sister, and for herself. Her grieving parents, however, did not agree with her decision, because now Theodora was their only child. They pleaded with her, and, at the proper time, they married her to a young man who was working in their vicinity, and who went frequently to venerate the holy sites. After entering into a lawful marriage, they lived together in her husband’s house.
Since Saint Theodora and her husband did not have any children, they both decided to enter monasteries in the Buzau valley. Her husband went to the Skete of Poiana Mărului, where he was tonsured with the name Eleutherios. He was also found worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood. Saint Theodora also received the monastic tonsure in the Skete of Poiana Mărului. In just a few short years, she advanced in obedience, prayer, and asceticism, acquiring the grace of unceasing prayer of the heart. She also had to endure many temptations from the Enemy.
When the Buzau valley was invaded by the Turks, Saint Theodora fled to the mountains with her Spiritual Mother, Schema-nun Paisia. They lived for several years in fasting, vigil and prayer, enduring cold, hunger, and other trials from the devil. When her Spiritual Mother fell asleep in the Lord (sometime between 1670 – 1675), Saint Theodora was led by God to the mountains of Neamț. After venerating the wonderworking Neamts Icon of the Mother of God (June 26) at the monastery, she was told to seek the advice of Hieromonk Barsanuphios of Sihăstria Skete. Seeing her desire for the eremetical life, and recognizing her great virtues, he gave her Holy Communion and assigned Hieromonk Paul as her Father Confessor and spiritual guide.
Father Barsanuphios advised Mother Theodora to go and live alone in the wilderness for a year. “If, by the grace of Christ, you are able to endure the difficulties and trials of the wilderness, then remain there until you die. If you cannot endure, however, then go to a women’s monastery, and struggle there in humility for the salvation of your soul.”
Father Paul searched in vain for an abandoned hermitage where the saint might live. Then they met an old hermit living beneath the cliffs of Sihla. This clairvoyant Elder greeted them and said, “Mother Theodora, remain in my cell, because I am moving to another hermitage.”
Father Paul left the nun on Mount Sihla, blessing her before he returned to the Sihăstria Skete. Saint Theodora lived in that cell for thirty years, glorifying God. Strengthened with power from on high, she vanquished all the attacks of the Enemy through patience and humility. She never left the mountain, and never saw another person except for Father Paul, who visited her from time to time to bring her the Spotless Mysteries of Christ and the supplies she needed in order to survive.
Saint Theodora made such progress in asceticism that she was able to keep vigil all night long with her arms lifted up toward heaven. When the morning sun touched her face, she would eat some herbs and other vegetation to break her fast. She drank the rain water which she collected from a channel cut into the cliff, which is still known as Saint Theodora’s spring. After Father Paul’s repose, she remained solely in God’s care.
When Turks attacked the villages and monasteries around Neamts, the woods became filled with people from nearby villages and refugees from the monasteries. Some nuns discovered Saint Theodora’s cell and she told them, “Remain here in my cell, for I have another place of refuge.” Then she moved into a nearby cave, living there completely alone. At night she would rest a little on the flagstones, which still can be seen to this day. An army of Turks discovered the cave, and were about to kill the saint. Lifting up her hands, she cried out, “O Lord, deliver me from the hands of these murderers.” The wall of the cave opened up, and she was able to escape into the woods.
As Saint Theodora grew old, she was completely forgotten and there was no one to care for her. Placing all her hope in God, she continued her spiritual struggles, and reached great heights of perfection. When she prayed her mind was raised up to Heaven, and her body was lifted up off the ground. Like the great saints of earlier times, her face shone with a radiant light, and a flame came forth from her mouth when she prayed.
Eventually her clothes became mere rags, and when her food ran out, she was fed by birds just as the Prophet Elias (July 20) was. The bread that they brought to her came from the Sihăstria Skete. Seeing the birds come to the Skete and then fly away with pieces of bread in their beaks, the Hegumen sent two monks to follow them, thinking that some ascetic was living there and that God was providing food for him. Night fell as they walked toward Sihla, and they lost their way in the woods. They decided to wait for daylight, and so they began to pray. One of them climbed a tree and looked for a place where someone might be living. Suddenly, they saw a bright light rising up into the sky, and went to investigate. As they approached, they saw a woman shining with light and levitating above the ground while she prayed.
Sensing their presence, Saint Theodora said, “Brethren, do not be afraid, for I am a humble handmaiden of Christ. Throw me something to wear, for I am naked.’ The monks were amazed when she addressed them by name. Then she prayed: “I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast heard me.” She said to the monks, “Brothers, I have lived for many years in these parts, and, behold, it has been forty days since I prayed for God to send me a Confessor to come and impart unto me the Holy Mysteries of our Lord Jesus Christ, because it is almost time for me to depart from this life. So, please, go straight to the Skete and ask Father Hegumen to send Father Anthony and Hierodeacon Laurence to me tomorrow morning with Holy Communion.”
They asked her how they could find their way to the Skete at night, for they did not know the way. She said that they would be guided to the Skete by a light which would go before them.
The next day at dawn, Father Anthony went to Sihla with the deacon and two other monks. When they found Saint Theodora, she was praying by a fir tree in front of her cave. She made a Confession of her entire life to Father Anthony, and then she received the Holy Mysteries of Christ and gave her soul to God. Her last words were, “Glory to God for all things.’ The monks buried Saint Theodora in her cave with great reverence sometime during the first decade of the eighteenth century.
News of her death spread quickly, and people came from all over to venerate her tomb. Her holy relics remained incorrupt, and many miracles took place before them. Some kissed the relics; others touched the reliquary, while others washed in her spring. All who entreated Saint Theodora’s intercession received healing and consolation.
Saint Theodore’s former husband, Hieromonk Eleutherios, heard that she had been living at Sihla, and decided to go there. He found her cave shortly after her death and burial. Grieving for his beloved wife, Eleutherios did not return to his monastery, but made a small cell for himself below the cliffs of Sihla. He remained close to her cave, fasting, praying, and serving the Divine Liturgy. He lived there for about ten years before his blessed repose. He was buried in the hermits’ cemetery and the Skete of Saint John the Baptist was built over his grave.
Saint Theodora’s relics were taken to the Kiev Caves Monastery between 1828 and 1834. There she is known as Saint Theodora of the Carpathians. Our Venerable Mother Theodora was glorified by the Romanian Orthodox Church on June 20, 1992.
The inscription of Saint Theodora’s scroll reads: “Life is blessed for those in the wilderness as they fly upon the wings of Divine love” (Sunday Matins, Hymn of Degrees, first Antiphon).
No information available at this time.
No information available at this time.
When the hordes of Batu Khan approached Smolensk in 1238, in the service of the Prince of Smolensk was a Roman soldier from a noble Orthodox family, who was Orthodox himself. His name was Mercurius. He was tall, courageous, and strong. It saddened him to see the destruction of so many churches, and he wished to lay down his life for Christ.
One day, during evening prayers in the temple before the wonderworking Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, the sacristan of the Cathedral heard a voice say, "Go to my servant Mercurius at Podol and quietly say to him: 'Mercurius, the Sovereign Lady is calling you. Go and meet the enemy in your military armor.'
The sacristan went to his house and found Mercurius in the yard, praying in his armor. He had a miraculous premonition, and was waiting for him. The sacristan said, "Mercurius, go at once. The Sovereign Lady is calling you."
They entered the cathedral, and Mercurius made a prostration. Once again, a voice came from the Icon: "My servant, Mercurius, I am sending you to drive the enemy from this city, and to defend this temple. It is for this reason that I have called you from your country. Tonight the enemy has plotted in secret to attack the city, and to destroy it. However, I shall not leave this city; by my prayers, it shall not fall into the hands of its enemies. Go at once to the place called Dolgomoste. An armed host of evil enemies is waiting there. Do not worry; you shall defeat the enemy Voevod. I shall not abandon you. You shall defeat the enemy in battle and obtain a crown of victory from God, and eternal blessedness."
Dolgomoste was 14 versts from Smolensk. There was an enemy force, ready to attack the city in the morning. As he left the cathedral, Mercurius quietly and discreetly passed by the city guards, and with the words, "Most Holy Theotokos help me," he rushed at the enemy. The first soldier was a giant who was proud of his strength, and he was followed by others. The Tatars ran when they saw a radiant Woman, and lightning-fast warriors, who struck them, and so they retreated permanently from the boundaries of Smolensk. Saint Mercurius, however, died in battle, and his head had been cut off.
The next morning, the citizens were surprised to see that the entire field was littered with enemy corpses. They found the body of their protector and buried it in the cathedral church. They hung his armor above his coffin, in accordance with his final wishes, as expressed by the sacristan.
The relics of Saint Mercurius rest in the cathedral church, which is dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God.
Saint Mercurius is also commemorated on November 24, the day of his patron Saint, the Great Martyr Mercurius, and on the Sunday before July 15 (Synaxis of the Smolensk Saints).
Here is the live stream for Orthros and Divine Liturgy – Feast of the Transfiguration – Sat. 8/6/2022 If you need, here are instructions for accessing this content from your phone, tablet, computer, or TV.
TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, DAIRY, EGGS
Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
ST. PETER’S SECOND UNIVERSAL LETTER 1:10-19
BRETHREN, be more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, " we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
At that time, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking, when lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.”
Discourse on the Holy Transfiguration of Our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ of Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica
For an explanation of the present Feast and understanding of its truth, it is necessary for us to turn to the very start of today’s reading from the Gospel: “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up onto a high mountain by themselves” (Mt.17:1).
First of all we must ask, from whence does the Evangelist Matthew begin to reckon with six days? From what sort of day is it? What does the preceding turn of speech indicate, where the Savior, in teaching His disciples, said to them: “For the Son of Man shall come with his angels in the glory of His Father,” and further: “Amen I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt.16:27-28)? That is to say, it is the Light of His own forthcoming Transfiguration which He terms the Glory of His Father and of His Kingdom.
The Evangelist Luke points this out and reveals this more clearly saying: “Now it came to pass about eight days after these words, that He took Peter and John and James, and went up the mountain to pray. And as He prayed, His countenance was altered, and His raiment became a radiant white” (Luke 9:28-29). But how can the two be reconciled, when one of them speaks definitively about the interval of time as being eight days between the sayings and the manifestation, whereas the other (says): “after six days?”
There were eight on the mountain, but only six were visible. Three, Peter, James and John, had come up with Jesus, and they saw Moses and Elias standing there and conversing with Him, so altogether there were six of them. However, the Father and the Holy Spirit were invisibly with the Lord: the Father, with His Voice testifying that this was His Beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit shining forth with Him in the radiant cloud. Thus, the six are actually eight, and there is no contradiction regarding the eight. Similarly, there is no contradiction with the Evangelists when one says “after six days,” and the other says “eight days after these words.”
But these twofold sayings as it were present is a certain format set in mystery, and together with it that of those actually present upon the Mount. It stands to reason, and everyone rationally studying in accordance with Scripture knows that the Evangelists are in agreement one with another. Luke spoke of eight days without contradicting Matthew, who declared “after six days.” There is not another day added on to represent the day on which these sayings were uttered, nor is the day on which the Lord was transfigured added on (which a rational person might reasonably imagine to be added to the days of Matthew).
The Evangelist Luke does not say “after eight days” (like the Evangelist Matthew says “after six days”), but rather “it came to pass eight days after these words.” But where the Evangelists seem to contradict one another, they actually point out to us something great and mysterious. In actual fact, why did the one say “after six days,” but the other, in ignoring the seventh day, have in mind the eighth day? It is because the great vision of the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is the mystery of the Eighth Day, i.e., of the future age, coming to be revealed after the passing away of the world created in six days.
About the power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom the Kingdom of God is to be revealed, the Lord predicted: “There are some standing here who shall not taste death, until they have seen the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom” (Mt.16:28). Everywhere and in every way the King will be present, and everywhere will be His Kingdom, since the advent of His Kingdom does not signify the passing over from one place to another, but rather the revelation of its power of the Divine Spirit. That is why it is said: “come in power.” And this power is not manifest to simply ordinary people, but to those standing with the Lord, that is to say, those who have affirmed their faith in Him like Peter, James and John, and especially those who are free of our natural abasement. Therefore, and precisely because of this, God manifests Himself upon the Mount, on the one hand coming down from His heights, and on the other, raising us up from the depths of abasement, since the Transcendent One takes on mortal nature. Certainly, such a manifest appearance by far transcends the utmost limits of the mind’s grasp, as effectualized by the power of the Divine Spirit.
Thus, the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord is not something that comes to be and then vanishes, nor is it subject to the sensory faculties, although it was contemplated by corporeal eyes for a short while upon an inconsequential mountaintop. But the initiates of the Mystery, (the disciples) of the Lord at this time passed beyond mere flesh into spirit through a transformation of their senses, effectualized within them by the Spirit, and in such a way that they beheld what, and to what extent, the Divine Spirit had wrought blessedness in them to behold the Ineffable Light.
Those not grasping this point have conjectured that the chosen from among the Apostles beheld the Light of the Transfiguration of the Lord by a sensual and creaturely faculty, and through this they attempt to reduce to a creaturely level (i.e., as something “created”) not only this Light, the Kingdom and the Glory of God, but also the Power of the Divine Spirit, through Whom it is meet for Divine Mysteries to be revealed. In all likelihood, such persons have not heeded the words of the Apostle Paul: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him. But to us God has revealed them through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor.2:9-10).
So, with the onset of the Eighth Day, the Lord, taking Peter, James and John, went up on the Mount to pray. He always prayed alone, withdrawing from everyone, even from the Apostles themselves, as for example when with five loaves and two fish He fed the five thousand men, besides women and children (Mt.14:19-23). Or, taking with Him those who excelled others, as at the approach of His Saving Passion, when He said to the other disciples: “Sit here while I go over there and pray” (Mt.26:36). Then He took with Him Peter, James and John. But in our instance right here and now, having taken only these same three, the Lord led them up onto a high mountain by themselves and was transfigured before them, that is to say, before their very eyes.
“What does it mean to say: He was transfigured?” asks the Golden-Mouthed Theologian (Chrysostom). He answers this by saying: “It revealed something of His Divinity to them, as much and insofar as they were able to apprehend it, and it showed the indwelling of God within Him.” The Evangelist Luke says: “And as He prayed, His countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29); and from the Evangelist Matthew we read: “And His face shone as the sun” (Mt.17:2). But the Evangelist said this, not in the context that this Light be thought of as subsistent for the senses (let us put aside the blindness of mind of those who can conceive of nothing higher than what is known through the senses). Rather, it is to show that Christ God, for those living and contemplating by the Spirit, is the same as the sun is for those living in the flesh and contemplating by the senses. Therefore, some other Light for the knowing the Divinity is not necessary for those who are enriched by Divine gifts.
That same Inscrutable Light shone and was mysteriously manifest to the Apostles and the foremost of the Prophets at that moment, when (the Lord) was praying. This shows that what brought forth this blessed sight was prayer, and that the radiance occured and was manifest by uniting the mind with God, and that it is granted to all who, with constant exercise in efforts of virtue and prayer, strive with their mind towards God. True beauty, essentially, can be contemplated only with a purified mind. To gaze upon its luminance assumes a sort of participation in it, as though some bright ray etches itself upon the face.
Even the face of Moses was illumined by his association with God. Do you not know that Moses was transfigured when he went up the mountain, and there beheld the Glory of God? But he (Moses) did not effect this, but rather he underwent a transfiguration. However, our Lord Jesus Christ possessed that Light Himself. In this regard, actually, He did not need prayer for His flesh to radiate with the Divine Light; it was but to show from whence that Light descends upon the saints of God, and how to contemplate it. For it is written that even the saints “will shine forth like the sun” (Mt.13:43), which is to say, entirely permeated by Divine Light as they gaze upon Christ, divinely and inexpressibly shining forth His Radiance, issuing from His Divine Nature. On Mount Tabor it was manifest also in His Flesh, by reason of the Hypostatic Union (i.e., the union of the two perfect natures, divine and human, within the divine Person [Hypostasis] of Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity). The Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon defined this Hypostatic union of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, as “without mingling, without change, without division, without separation.”
We believe that at the Transfiguration He manifested not some other sort of light, but only that which was concealed beneath His fleshly exterior. This Light was the Light of the Divine Nature, and as such, it was Uncreated and Divine. So also, in the teachings of the Fathers, Jesus Christ was transfigured on the Mount, not taking upon Himself something new nor being changed into something new, nor something which formerly He did not possess. Rather, it was to show His disciples that which He already was, opening their eyes and bringing them from blindness to sight. For do you not see that eyes that can perceive natural things would be blind to this Light?
Thus, this Light is not a light of the senses, and those contemplating it do not simply see with sensual eyes, but rather they are changed by the power of the Divine Spirit. They were transformed, and only in this way did they see the transformation taking place amidst the very assumption of our perishability, with the deification through union with the Word of God in place of this.
So also she who miraculously conceived and gave birth recognized that the One born of her is God Incarnate. So it was also for Simeon, who only received this Infant into his arms, and the aged Anna, coming out [from the Jerusalem Temple] for the Meeting, since the Divine Power illumined, as through a glass windowpane, giving light for those having pure eyes of heart.
And why did the Lord, before the beginning of the Transfiguration, choose the foremost of the Apostles and lead them up onto the Mount with Him? Certainly, it was to show them something great and mysterious. What is particularly great or mysterious in showing a sensory light, which not only the foremost, but all the other Apostles already abundantly possessed? Why would they need a transforming of their eyes by the power of the Holy Spirit for a contemplation of this Light, if it were merely sensory and created? How could the Glory and the Kingdom of the Father and the Holy Spirit project forth in some sort of sensory light? Indeed, in what sort of Glory and Kingdom would Christ the Lord come at the end of the ages, when there would not be necessary anything in the air, nor in expanse, nor anything similar, but when, in the words of the Apostle, “God will be all in all” (1 Cor.15: 28)? That is to say, will He alter everything for all? If so, then it follows that light is included.
Hence it is clear that the Light of Tabor was a Divine Light. And the Evangelist John, inspired by Divine Revelation, says clearly that the future eternal and enduring city “has no need of the sun or moon to shine upon it. For the Glory of God lights it up, and the Lamb will be its lamp” (Rev 21:23). Is it not clear, that he points out here that this [Lamb] is Jesus, Who is divinely transfigured now upon Tabor, and the flesh of Whom shines, is the lamp manifesting the Glory of divinity for those ascending the mountain with Him?
John the Theologian also says about the inhabitants of this city: “they will not need light from lamps, nor the light of the sun, for the Lord God will shed light upon them, and night shall be no more” (Rev 22:5). But how, we might ask, is there this other light, in which “there is no change, nor shadow of alteration” (Jas 1:17)? What light is there that is constant and unsetting, unless it be the Light of God? Moreover, could Moses and Elias (and particularly the former, who clearly was present only in spirit, and not in flesh [Elias having ascended bodily to Heaven on the fiery chariot]) be shining with any sort of sensory light, and be seen and known? Especially since it was written of them: “they appeared in glory, and spoke of his death, which he was about to fulfill at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31). And how otherwise could the Apostles recognize those whom they had never seen before, unless through the mysterious power of the Divine Light, opening their mental eyes?
But let us not tire our attention with the furthermost interpretations of the words of the Gospel. We shall believe thus, as those same ones have taught us, who themselves were enlightened by the Lord Himself, insofar as they alone know this well: the Mysteries of God, in the words of a prophet, are known to God alone and His perpetual proximity. Let us, considering the Mystery of the Transfiguration of the Lord in accord with their teaching, strive to be illumined by this Light ourselves and encourage in ourselves love and striving towards the Unfading Glory and Beauty, purifying our spiritual eyes of worldly thoughts and refraining from perishable and quickly passing delights and beauty which darken the garb of the soul and lead to the fire of Gehenna and everlasting darkness. Let us be freed from these by the illumination and knowledge of the incorporeal and ever-existing Light of our Savior transfigured on Tabor, in His Glory, and of His Father from all eternity, and His Life-Creating Spirit, Whom are One Radiance, One Godhead, and Glory, and Kingdom, and Power now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
8TH FRIDAY AFTER PENTECOST
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Forefeast of the Transfiguration of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Eusignius the Martyr of Antioch, Our Righteous Father Eugene of Aitola, Euthymios, Patriarch of Constantinople, Christos the New Martyr of Prevezis, Oswald the Martyr, King of Northumbria
ST. PETER’S FIRST UNIVERSAL LETTER 1:1-25; 2:1-10
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontos, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:
May grace and peace be multiplied to you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Without having known him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls.
The prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired about this salvation; they inquired what person or time was indicated by the Spirit of Christ within them when predicting the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things which have now been announced to you by those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy." And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was destined before the foundation of the world but was made manifest at the end of the times for your sake. Through him you have confidence in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord abides for ever." That word is the good news which was preached to you.
So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander. Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God's sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.' To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner, ' and 'A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall'; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy.
At that time, the disciples asked Jesus, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He replied, “Elijah does come and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and kneeling before him said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; for often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.
The Lord had begun warning his disciples about the dangers they would face, and also about His Passion and death. He also told them that they would be persecuted by pagans and enemies of the Gospel. He explained that these things pertain to the present life, but what is essential is eternal life. Desiring to give His disciples a foretaste of eternal life, he took three of them, Peter, James and John, and brought them up to Mount Tabor.
There He was transfigured before them and His face shone like light. Moses and Elias appeared and spoke with Jesus. The Lord took only those disciples because they were more pre-eminent than the others. Peter was chosen because he loved Christ very much, John because he also loved Christ, and James because he was able to drink the cup that Christ drank (Matthew 20:23). The Lord showed them Moses and
Elias in order to correct their erroneous ideas of who He was, as though He were Saint John the Baptist, or some great prophet. That is why He revealed His glory to them ‘as far as they could bear it.’ All this took place during the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor.
The Martyr Eusignius was born at Antioch in the mid-third century. For sixty years he served in the Roman armies of the emperors Diocletian, Maximian Hercules, Constantius Chlorus, Constantine the Great and his sons. Saint Eusignius was a companion of Saint Basiliscus (March 3 and May 22), and he provided an account of his martyrdom. At the beginning of the reign of Saint Constantine the Great, Saint Eusignius was a witness to the appearance of the Cross in the sky, a prediction of victory.
Saint Eusignius retired in his old age from military service and returned to his own country. There he spent his time in prayer, fasting, and attending the church of God. So he lived until the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363), who yearned for a return to paganism. Through the denunciation of one of the Antiochian citizens, Saint Eusignius stood trial as a Christian before the emperor Julian in the year 362. He fearlessly accused the emperor of apostasy from Christ, and reproached him with the example of his relative, Constantine the Great, and he described in detail how he himself had been an eyewitness to the appearance of the sign of the Cross in the sky. Julian did not spare the aged Saint Eusignius, then 110 years old, but ordered him beheaded.
Saint Job the Gorge-dweller was a monk of the Solovki Monastery (his father's name was Patrick Mazovsky). On November 10, 1608 Venerable Job was ordained as a Hieromonk by Metropolitan Isidore of Novgorod. In 1614 Saint Job was sent to the Mezen region, where at the confluence of the Rivers Ezeg and Vazhka into the River Mezen, he built a chapel in honor of the Nativity of Christ. The Monastery was so poor that the first monks to gather around him lived in the homes of their lay kinsmen. After Tsar Michael (1613-1645) donated lands to the Monastery with fishing rights, Saint Job built a church and monastic cells for the brethren.
On August 5, 1628, when all the brethren were in the hayfield, the Monastery was attacked by robbers. After torturing Saint Job in order to force him to open the monastic treasury, the robbers beheaded him. Finding nothing, they went away. When the brethren returned they buried the Martyr's body with honor.
Local veneration of the Venerable one as a Saint began soon after his death, because of numerous miracles (about fifty occurred in the XVII century). The first icon was painted in 1658, and his Life written in the 1660s. Around that time a chapel was built over the relics of the Venerable one. Later, with the blessing of Archbishop Athanasios of Kholmogorsk, it was rebuilt as a church in honor of his patron Saint, the Righteous Job the Much-Suffering (May 6). On the same day the Church established the commemoration of Saint Job the Gorge-dweller.
On November 3, 1739, the relics of Saint Job were examined by Archbishop Barsanuphios, and it was blessed to chant a Moleben to the Saint. Thus his glorification took place. In iconography, Saint Job is depicted in this manner: “Greyish, with a beard like Saint Alexander of Svir, dressed as Schema-monk, and in his hands is a scroll upon which is written: “Fear not those who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).
Saint Antherus was elected Bishop of Rome in place of Saint Pontian, and he too soon accepted suffering and death for Christ in the year 236.
Saint Fabian, as a presbyter, fearlessly gave burial to the bodies of martyrs. After the death of Hieromartyr Antherus (Antheros) Pope of Rome, Saint Fabian succeeded him as Pope.
Saint Fabian loved Saint Pontius as though he were his own son. Saint Pontius distributed with Saint Fabian all his substance on the needs of the poor. After the death of the impious Maximian, the new emperor Gordian (238-244) did not persecute Christians. The emperor Philip (244-249), together with his son and co-regent Philip, was persuaded by the conversations and preaching of Saint Pontius to believe in Christ and to accept Baptism from Saint Fabian.
With the permission of the emperors, Saints Pontius and Fabian destroyed the statue of Jupiter in the pagan temple and built a church on this place. For four years the Church of Christ dwelt in peace and tranquility. Then Decius (249-251) ascended the throne, after organizing a rebellion and murdering the emperor Philip and his son.
And during this time Saint Fabian, Bishop of Rome (+ 250), accepted death for Christ. Saint Pontius left Rome for the city of Cimelum (on the border of Italy and Gaul) and lived there as a stranger. During the time of the emperor Valerian (253-259), cruel torturers were sent out with full authority to seek out and kill Christians. Thus Claudius and Anubius arrived in the city of Cimelum for this purpose.
Saint Pontius fearlessly confessed himself a Christian and refused to offer sacrifice to idols. They shackled him in irons and threw him in prison. From the very beginning of the torture the saint calmly admonished the torturers, saying that the Lord would bring the torture to naught, and they would see the power of God. As soon as the servants attempted to tie Saint Pontius to the rack, it fell to pieces, and the torturers fell on the ground as though dead.
“Be convinced, O man of little faith, of the power of my Lord,” said Saint Pontius to Claudius, but on the advice of Anubius he gave Saint Pontius over to be eaten by two bears in the circus. The wild beasts, while not touching the saint, fell instead upon their keepers and mauled them. The spectators began to shout: “The only God is the Christian God, in Whom Pontius believes.” By order of the torturers a fire was built, but it burned out and the saint remained alive. Not even his clothes were burnt. The crowd shouted all the more strongly: “Great is the God of the Christians!” Saint Pontius then was sentenced to beheading by the sword, and his execution took place in the year 257. The body of Saint Pontius was given burial by his friend Valerian.
Saints Cantidius and Cantidian were brothers who lived in Egypt during the fourth century. They were put to death by stoning. Saint Sibelius (Soleb) was shot with arrows. All three suffered martyrdom because they were Christians who refused to deny Christ.
Saint Nonna, the mother of Saint Gregory the Theologian (January 25, 389), was the daughter of Christians named Philotatos and Gorgonia, who raised her in Christian piety. Saint Nonna was also an aunt of Saint Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium (November 23).
Saint Nonna entered into marriage with Gregory of Arianzus (January 1), the rich landowner of an estate in the Arianzus and Nazianzos districts. The marriage was advantageous by earthly considerations, but grievous for the pious soul of Nonna. Her husband Gregory was a pagan, a follower of the sect of the Supremists (Hypsistarii), who venerated a supreme god and observed certain Jewish rituals, while at the same time they worshipped fire.
Saint Nonna prayed that her spouse would turn to the holy truth. Saint Nonna’s son, Saint Gregory the Theologian, wrote about this: “She could not bear this, being half united to God, because he who was part of her remained apart from God. She wanted a spiritual union in addition to the bodily union. Day and night she turned to God with fasting and many tears, entreating Him to grant salvation to her husband.”
Through the prayers of Saint Nonna, her husband Gregory had a vision in his sleep. “It seemed to my father,” writes Saint Gregory, “as though he was singing the following verse of David: ‘I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord’ (Ps. 121/122: 1). He had never done this before, though his wife had often offered her supplications and prayers for it.”
The Psalm was strange to him, but along with its words, the desire also came to him to go to church. When she heard about this, Saint Nonna told her husband that the vision would bring the greatest pleasure if it were fulfilled.
The elder Gregory went to the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, where he made known his conversion to Christ. He was baptized, ordained presbyter, and then Bishop of Nazianzos devoting himself totally to the Church. At the same time as his consecration as bishop, his wife Saint Nonna was made a deaconness. With the same zeal with which she had raised her children, she now occupied herself in performing works of charity.
“She knew,” says Saint Gregory the Theologian, “one thing to be truly noble: to be pious and to know from where we have come and where we are going; and that there is one innate and trusty wealth: to use one’s substance on God and on the poor, especially the impoverished kin.
“One woman may be distinguished for frugality, and another for piety, while she, difficult as it is to combine both qualities, excelled all others in both of them. In each she attained the height of perfection, and both were combined in her. She did not permit one duty to interfere with the other, but rather each supported the other.
“What time and place of prayer ever eluded her? She was drawn to this each day before anything else, and she had complete faith that her prayers would be answered. Although greatly moved by the sorrows of strangers, she never yielded to grief to the extent that she allowed any sound of woe to escape her lips before the Eucharist, or a tear to fall from her eye, or for any trace of mourning to remain on a Feast day, though she repeatedly endured many sorrows. She subjected every human thing to God.”
Her final years brought Saint Nonna many sorrows. In the year 368 her younger son Caesarios died, a young man of brilliant expectations; and in the following year, her daughter died. The brave old woman bore these losses submitting to the will of God.
In the year 370 Bishop Gregory, then already an old man, participated in the consecration of Saint Basil the Great as Bishop of Caesarea. Saint Nonna, who was somewhat younger than her husband, was also ready to enter into the next life, but through the prayers of her beloved son her time on earth was prolonged.
“My mother,” wrote her son, “was always strong and vigorous, and free from sickness all her life, but then she became ill. Because of much distress… caused by her inability to eat, her life was in danger for many days, and no cure could be found. How then did God sustain her? He did not send down manna, as for Israel of old; He did not split open a rock, in order to provide water for the thirsty people; nor did He send food by ravens, as with Elias, nor did He feed her…, as He once fed Daniel, who felt hunger in the pit. But how?
“It seemed to her that I, her favorite son (not even in dreams did she prefer anyone else), had appeared to her suddenly by night with a basket of the whitest bread. Then I blessed these loaves with the Sign of the Cross, as is my custom, and I gave her to eat, and with this her strength increased.”
Saint Nonna believed the vision was real. She became stronger, and more like her old self.
Saint Gregory visited her early the next morning and, as usual, asked what sort of night she had, and if she required anything. “She replied, ‘My son, you have fed me and now you ask about my health. I am well.’ At this moment her maids made signs to me that I should not contradict her, but to accept her words so that the actual truth should not distress her.”
Early in the year 374 the hundred-year-old Saint Gregory the Elder reposed. After this, Saint Nonna almost never emerged from the church. Soon after his death, she died at prayer in the temple on August 5, 374.
Saint Nonna was a model wife and mother, a remarkable woman who devoted her life to God and the Church without neglecting her other responsibilities. Because of her spiritual, social, and domestic concerns, Saint Nonna would be a most fitting patron for Orthodox women’s organizations.
Saint Theoctistus, Bishop of Chernigov, before assuming the episcopal office, pursued an ascetic life at the Kiev Caves monastery. He was one of the great Elders, healing Saint Nikḗtas, the future Bishop of Novgorod (January 31), by his prayers.
In the year 1103, Saint Theoctistus was made igumen of the Kiev Caves monastery. In the year 1108 he built a stone trapeza (dining hall) through the generosity of the pious prince Gleb Vseslavich. Saint Theoctistus particularly insisted that the name of Saint Theodosius (May 3) be included in the Synodikon of the saints of all Russia.
On February 11, 1110, there was a heavenly apparition at the Caves monastery. A pillar of fire appeared, stretching from the ground to the sky, and lightning lighted up all the earth, At the first hour of the night, there was a crash of thunder. The fiery pillar stood over the stone trapeza so that its cross was not visible. Later, it proceeded to the church and settled over the grave of Saint Theodosius, and then, turning to the East, it disappeared.
“This was not a pillar of fire, but rather an angelic face,” wrote Saint Nestor the Chronicler, “because an angel appears thus when there is a pillar of fire, a flaming, as says the Prophet David: Who makes His angels spirits and His servants flames of fire” (Ps. 103 : 4).
In the year 1113, Saint Theoctistus was consecrated Bishop of Chernigov. The Hieromartyr Monk Kuksha (August 27), enlightening the Vyatichi at this time, belonged to the Chernigov diocese. On May 2, 1115 Saint Theoctistus participated in the transfer of the relics of holy Princes Boris and Gleb to Vyshgorod, and later in Chernigov near his cathedral he consecrated a church in the name of the holy Princes Boris and Gleb, built in the year 1120 by Prince David of Chernigov. And to the noble Prince Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb the saint made a sermon on the day of their memory. On August 6, 1123, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Saint Theoctistus died, and because of the feastday, his memory is kept on August 5.
On one of the lists of the Saints it is said, that he was buried at the Caves monastery. Saint Theoctistus is also commemorated on September 28, when he is remembered in the 9th ode of the Canon of the Synaxis of the Monastic Fathers of the Near Caves.
The Martyr Pontius lived during the third century, the son of the pagan Roman senator Marcus and his wife Julia. While with child, Julia had gone with her husband to the temple of Jupiter. The devil, inhabiting the temple, shouted through the lips of the pagan priest that the boy in Julia’s womb would destroy Jupiter and his pagan temple. When the boy was born, his mother wanted to kill him out of fear of the prediction, but his father opposed this and the child was left to live. He was named Pontius, and he grew up sharp of mind and eager for study.
On his way to the pagan school Pontius happened to go past a house, where Christians were attending the morning services. Hearing the words of the Psalm which the Christians were singing: “the idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the works of men’s hands” (Ps. 114/115: 4 and Ps. 134 /135: 15 ). Pontius became very interested in this verse and he paused at the gate.
Saint Pontian, who was celebrating the service, invited Pontius and his companion Valerian to come in. After the service, the bishop talked for a long while with the youths, revealing to them the Gospel teachings, and after a certain while he baptized them. Saint Pontius, in turn, converted his father to Christ, whom Saint Pontian also baptized, together with his whole household.
After the death of his father, Saint Pontius, then 20 years old, was appointed by the emperor Alexander Severus (222-235) as a senator, to take the place of his deceased father. In the Senate and the surroundings of the emperor, Saint Pontius enjoyed universal esteem for his good nature, sound sense and fairness. Under the successor to the emperor Alexander Severus, Maximian (235-238), Saint Pontian finished his life as a martyr.
Saint Oswald was born around 605, the second of the seven sons of the Anglo-Saxon king Aethelfrith, who was the first ruler to unite the provinces of Bernicia and Deira into the kingdom of Northumbria.
King Edwin of Deira refused to accept the Bernician control of both provinces, so he attempted a coup while Aethelfrith was away in the north. Edwin was defeated and driven into exile. When Aethelfrith was killed later, Edwin became King of Northumbria.
Oswald’s mother Acha (Edwin’s sister) fled to Ireland (then called Scotland) with her children. It is believed that during his seventeen years of exile, Saint Oswald received Christian baptism at Iona and also learned the Gaelic language.
Edwin was killed in 633 while fighting King Penda of Mercia and King Caedwalla of Cwynedd (North Wales). Eanfrith, Oswald’s older brother, returned to paganism and was killed in battle against Caedwalla. Now Oswald had to lead the struggle against the Britons.
In 634 Oswald assembled an army and prepared to meet the forces of Penda and Caedwalla at Heavenfield (Hefenfelth) near the Roman Wall seven miles north of Hexham. On the eve of the battle, Saint Oswald set up a great wooden cross on the field. With his own hands, the king steadied the cross while his men filled in the hole which had been dug to receive it. Although only a few of his men were Christians, Oswald ordered the army to kneel and pray to the true and living God to grant them victory.
“Let us now kneel down and pray to the omnipotent and only true God, that He will mercifully defend us from our proud enemy,” he told them, “for He knows that we fight in a just war in defense of our lives and our country.”
A modern replica of this cross now stands on the site, near the church of Saint Oswald.
The night before the battle, King Oswald had a vision of Saint Columba of Iona (June 9), who stretched his cloak over the sleeping soldiers and promised that the Saxon army would defeat Caedwalla the next day. Following the battle, Oswald established his supremacy in Northumbria and his right to the title of Bretwalda (High King of England). He was godfather to King Cynegils of Wessex at his baptism, and married his daughter in 635. By 637, Oswald’s authority was recognized by almost everyone.
For the next five years Britain was blessed with a rare period of stability. While governing his earthly realm, Saint Oswald also labored to attain a heavenly crown and to bring his people into the Kingdom of God. Turning to the Celtic monks of Iona, rather than the Roman clergy at Canterbury, Oswald invited missionaries to proclaim the Gospel to his subjects. The first bishop sent to lead the mission proved unsuitable, for he alienated many people by his harshness. The bishop was recalled, and an ideal candidate was found to replace him.
Saint Aidan (August 31) was consecrated bishop and sent to Northumbria to take charge of the mission. King Oswald gave him the island of Lindisfarne near the royal residence of Bamburg for his episcopal see. Saint Aidan also founded the famous monastery on Lindisfarne.
Since Bishop Aidan was not yet fluent in the Anglo-Saxon tongue, Saint Oswald would accompany him on his missionary journeys. The king translated the bishop’s words and explained the Word of God to his subjects, playing an active role in the evangelization of his kingdom. People flocked to receive baptism, drawn partly by Aidan’s preaching, and partly by King Oswald’s example of godliness and virtue.
Saint Oswald was a devout and sincere Christian who was often seen sitting with his hands resting palms upwards on his knees in a gesture of prayer. He granted land and money for the establishment of monasteries, and he was famous for his generosity to the poor.
One year, after attending the services of Pascha, King Oswald sat down to a meal with Bishop Aidan. Just as the bishop was about to bless the food, a servant came in and informed the king that a great number of needy folk were outside begging for alms. The king ordered that his own food be served to the poor on silver platters, and that the silver serving dishes be broken up and distributed to them.There is a charming illustration of this incident in the thirteenth century Berthold Missal in New York’s Pierpont Morgan Library (Morgan MS 710, fol. 101v). Aidan, deeply moved by Saint Oswald’s charity, took him by the right hand and said, “May this hand never perish.” According to tradition, Saint Oswald’s hand remained incorrupt for centuries after his death. Saint Bede (May 27) says that the hand was kept in the church of Saint Peter at Bamburgh, where it was venerated by all. The present location of the hand, if it still survives, is not known.
Saint Oswald was killed in battle against the superior forces of King Penda on August 5, 642 at a place called Maserfield. He was only thirty-eight years old. Before his death, Saint Oswald prayed for the souls of his soldiers.This has become almost proverbial: “‘O God, be merciful to their souls,’ said Oswald when he fell.”
Some identify the battle site with Oswestry (Oswald’s tree, or cross) in Shropshire, but this seems an unlikely place for a battle between Mercians and Northumbrians. Others believe that Lichfield is the probable site. Lichfield means “field of the body,” and was founded by Oswald’s brother Oswy. The city was an archbishopric for seventeen years under Offa, who had a particular veneration for Saint Oswald.
Following the Battle of Maserfield, Saint Oswald’s body was dismembered, and his head and arms were displayed on poles. Many miraculous healings took place at the site of the battle. This is not surprising, for during his lifetime Saint Oswald always helped the sick and the needy. Pilgrims took earth from the place where Saint Oswald fell, and many sick people were healed by mixing some of the dust with water and drinking it.
A year after his death, Saint Oswald’s arms were brought to Bamburgh by Oswy, and his head was brought to Lindisfarne. There the grief-stricken Bishop Aidan interred it in the monastery church.
According to William of Malmesbury (twelfth century), Saint Oswald is the first English saint whose relics worked miracles. Portions of his relics were distributed to several churches in England in in Europe. Today Saint Oswald’s head is in Durham Cathedral in Saint Cuthbert’s coffin, but the rest of his relics seem to have been lost.
In December of 1069 a clergyman named Earnan had a vision of Saints Cuthbert (March 20) and Oswald. He described the king as being clad in a scarlet cloak, tall in stature, with a thin beard and boyish face. This is recorded by the historian Simeon of Durham.
In the Middle Ages, devotion to Saint Oswald spread from Britain to Spain, Italy, and Germany. Unfortunately, the fame of this most Christian king is somewhat obscured today, and his popularity diminished after the Norman Conquest in 1066. Before that, the Danish invaders destroyed many Anglo-Saxon political and legal institutions, as well as written records and oral traditions which had been preserved in the monasteries.
Though King Alfred the Great and even William the Conquerer were anxious to link themselves with Saint Oswald, the kings who reigned after the Conquest were less inclined to associate themselves to Saint Oswald’s reputation as king. For three centuries the Norman kings of England spoke French, which became the language of the court, and they showed little interest in English history.
There were significant changes to the monastic culture after the Conquest as well. A number of monks were brought over from France, and they began to populate the English monasteries. By this time the English Church had become more solidly allied with Rome, and the old Celtic traditions began to disappear.
Saint Oswald deserves to be better known, but he has not been completely forgotten. There are over sixty churches dedicated to him in England, and his name is also associated with several place names and holy wells.
Saint Oswald is also commemorated on June 20 (the Transfer of his Relics).
Saint John the Chozebite, the son of Maxim and Catherine Jacob, was born July 23, 1913 in the Horodistea district of Moldavia. He was named for the holy prophet Elias (July 20). In 1914, his father died in the war, and his mother succumbed to a disease, leaving Elias as an orphan. His grandmother Maria raised him until he was eleven. She was a nun, so she was able to educate him in spiritual matters. She died in 1924, so young Elias went to live with other relatives. He had a great love for Christ and His Church, and longed for the monastic life.
He entered Neamts Monastery on August 15, 1933 when he was twenty years old. Here his soul was nourished by the beauty of the services, the experienced spiritual instructors, and the silence of the mountains. The young monk loved prayer, vigils, spiritual reading, and solitude, and soon he surpassed many experienced monks in obedience, humility, and patience. Seeing his great love for spiritual books, the igumen made him the monastery’s librarian. Elias gave comfort to many of the brethren by recommending specific books for each one to read. Then he would advise them to read the book carefully, make their confession, and not miss the services if they wanted to find peace.
His spiritual efforts attracted the notice of Archimandrite Valerie Moglan, who recommended that Elias be permitted to receive monastic tonsure. He was tonsured on April 8, 1936 and received the name John. From that time, the young monk intensified his spiritual efforts, conquering the temptations of the demons, and progressing on the path of salvation.
Saint John made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with two other monks in 1936, and they decided to remain there. The monk Damascene fell ill, however, and had to be taken back to Romania by the monk Claudius after eight months.
At first, Saint John lived in Bethlehem near Saint Savva’s Monastery. Romanian monks had lived at Saint Savva’s since the sixteenth century, and John struggled there for almost ten years. He was made librarian of the monastery, and he fulfilled this obedience for about seven years.
In 1945 Saint John longed for the peace and solitude of the desert, and so he went to live as a hermit. He was ordained as a priest in 1947, and became igumen of the Romanian Skete of Saint John the Baptist by the Jordan. Pilgrims often came to him for Confession, Communion, and consolation. In his free time he composed religious poems and hymns.
After five years, he and his disciple went into the desert of Chozeba near Jericho. Here they lived in asceticism for eight years in the cave where, according to Tradition, Saint Anna had prayed.
Saint John Jacob died on August 5, 1960 at the age of forty-seven and was buried in his cave. On August 8, 1980 his relics were found incorrupt and fragrant. They now rest in the Saint George the Chozebite Monastery.
In 1968 and 1970, Saint John’s book Spiritual Nourishment was published in two volumes, with the blessing of Patriarch Benedict of Jerusalem.
Saint John Jacob was glorified by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 1992.
No information available at this time.
8TH THURSDAY AFTER PENTECOST
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Seven Holy Youths of Ephesus
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 10:28-33; 11:1-8
Brethren, if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice, ” then out of consideration for the man who informed you, and for conscience’s sake – I mean his conscience, not yours – do not eat it. For why should my liberty be determined by another man’s scruples? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but any woman who prays of prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head – it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair, but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.)
The Lord said to his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father and then he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.
The Seven Youths of Ephesus: Maximilian, Iamblicus, Martinian, John, Dionysius, Exacustodianus (Constantine) and Antoninus, lived in the third century. Saint Maximilian was the son of the Ephesus city administrator, and the other six youths were sons of illustrious citizens of Ephesus. The youths were friends from childhood, and all were in military service together.
When the emperor Decius (249-251) arrived in Ephesus, he commanded all the citizens to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Torture and death awaited anyone who disobeyed. The seven youths were denounced by informants, and were summoned to reply to the charges. Appearing before the emperor, the young men confessed their faith in Christ.
Their military belts and insignia were quickly taken from them. Decius permitted them to go free, however, hoping that they would change their minds while he was off on a military campaign. The youths fled from the city and hid in a cave on Mount Ochlon, where they passed their time in prayer, preparing for martyrdom.
The youngest of them, Saint Iamblicus, dressed as a beggar and went into the city to buy bread. On one of his excursions into the city, he heard that the emperor had returned and was looking for them. Saint Maximilian urged his companions to come out of the cave and present themselves for trial.
Learning where the young men were hidden, the emperor ordered that the entrance of the cave be sealed with stones so that the saints would perish from hunger and thirst. Two of the dignitaries at the blocked entrance to the cave were secret Christians. Desiring to preserve the memory of the saints, they placed in the cave a sealed container containing two metal plaques. On them were inscribed the names of the seven youths and the details of their suffering and death.
The Lord placed the youths into a miraculous sleep lasting almost two centuries. In the meantime, the persecutions against Christians had ceased. During the reign of the holy emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450) there were heretics who denied that there would be a general resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of them said, “How can there be a resurrection of the dead when there will be neither soul nor body, since they are disintegrated?” Others affirmed, “The souls alone will have a restoration, since it would be impossible for bodies to arise and live after a thousand years, when even their dust would not remain.” Therefore, the Lord revealed the mystery of the Resurrection of the Dead and of the future life through His seven saints.
The owner of the land on which Mount Ochlon was situated, discovered the stone construction, and his workers opened up the entrance to the cave. The Lord had kept the youths alive, and they awoke from their sleep, unaware that almost two hundred years had passed. Their bodies and clothing were completely undecayed.
Preparing to accept torture, the youths once again asked Saint Iamblicus to buy bread for them in the city. Going toward the city, the youth was astonished to see a cross on the gates. Hearing the name of Jesus Christ freely spoken, he began to doubt that he was approaching his own city.
When he paid for the bread, Iamblicus gave the merchant coins with the image of the emperor Decius on it. He was detained, as someone who might be concealing a horde of old money. They took Saint Iamblicus to the city administrator, who also happened to be the Bishop of Ephesus. Hearing the bewildering answers of the young man, the bishop perceived that God was revealing some sort of mystery through him, and went with other people to the cave.
At the entrance to the cave the bishop found the sealed container and opened it. He read upon the metal plaques the names of the seven youths and the details of the sealing of the cave on the orders of the emperor Decius. Going into the cave and seeing the saints alive, everyone rejoiced and perceived that the Lord, by waking them from their long sleep, was demonstrating to the Church the mystery of the Resurrection of the Dead.
Soon the emperor himself arrived in Ephesus and spoke with the young men in the cave. Then the holy youths, in sight of everyone, lay their heads upon the ground and fell asleep again, this time until the General Resurrection.
The emperor wanted to place each of the youths into a jeweled coffin, but they appeared to him in a dream and said that their bodies were to be left upon the ground in the cave. In the twelfth century the Russian pilgrim Igumen Daniel saw the holy relics of the seven youths in the cave.
There is a second commemoration of the seven youths on October 22. According to one tradition, which entered into the Russian Prologue (of Saints’ Lives), the youths fell asleep for the second time on this day. The Greek Menaion of 1870 says that they first fell asleep on August 4, and woke up on October 22.
There is a prayer of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus in the Great Book of Needs (Trebnik) for those who are ill and cannot sleep. The Seven Sleepers are also mentioned in the service for the Church New Year, September 1.
The Holy Martyr Eudokia was a native of Anatolia, living in the fourth century. The army of the Persian emperor Sapor took her into captivity with 9,000 Christians. Since she knew the Holy Scriptures well, she instructed the prisoners. The saint also preached to the Persian women and converted many of them to Christianity. For this she was subjected to lengthy and fierce tortures and then beheaded.
The Holy Martyr Eleutherius served as the cubicularius (chamberlain) at the court of the emperor Maximian Hercules (284-305). When he accepted Christianity, he then settled on a country estate, and built a church at his home. One of the servants reported to the emperor that Eleutherius had become a Christian. The emperor ordered the saint to offer pagan sacrifice. The saint refused and for this he was beheaded. The relics of Saint Eleutherius were at Constantinople, and afterwards transferred to Italy, to the city of Theato.
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