12TH SATURDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Anthimus, Bishop of Nicomedea, Holy Father Theoctistus and his fellow struggler Euthymius the Great, Polydorus the Martyr of New Ephesus, Translation of the relics of St. Nectarius the Wonderworker, Bishop of Pentopolis, Chariton the Martyr, Phoebe the Deaconess
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 1:26-31; 2:1-5
Brethren, consider your call, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.” When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
At that time, as Jesus went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the roadside, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent; but they cried out the more, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" And Jesus stopped and called them, saying, "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened." And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they received their sight and followed him.
The Hieromartyr Anthimus, Bishop of Nicomedia, and those with him suffered during the persecution against Christians under the emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311). The persecution became particularly intense after a fire at the imperial court at Nicomedia. The pagans accused the Christians of setting the fire and reacted against them with terrible ferocity.
In Nicomedia alone, on the day of the Nativity of Christ, as many as twenty thousand Christians were burned inside a church. However, this monstrous inhumanity did not frighten the Christians, who firmly confessed their faith and endured martyrdom for Christ.
Saints Dorotheus, Mardonius, Migdonius, Peter, Indes and Gorgonius died during this period. One of them was beheaded by the sword, others perished by burning, or being buried alive, or by drowning in the sea. The soldier Zeno boldly denounced the emperor Maximian, for which he was stoned, and then beheaded.
Then the holy Virgin Martyr Domna, a former pagan priestess, perished at the hands of the pagans, and also Saint Euthymius, because of their concern that the bodies of the holy martyrs should be buried. Bishop Anthimus, who headed the Church of Nicomedia, hid himself in a village not far from Nicomedia at the request of his flock. From there he sent letters to the Christians, urging them to cleave firmly to the holy Faith and not to fear tortures.
One of his letters, sent with Deacon Theophilus, was intercepted and given to the emperor Maximian. Theophilus was interrogated and died under torture, without revealing to his torturers the whereabouts of Bishop Anthimus. After a while Maximian managed to learn where Saint Anthimus was, and sent a detachment of soldiers after him.
The bishop met them along the way, but the soldiers did not recognize the saint. He invited them to join him and provided a meal, after which he revealed that he was the one they sought. The soldiers did not know what to do. They wanted to leave him and tell the emperor that they had not found him. Bishop Anthimus was not one to tolerate a lie, and so he would not consent to this.
The soldiers came to believe in Christ and received holy Baptism. The saint ordered them to carry out the emperor’s instructions. When Bishop Anthimus was brought before the emperor, the emperor ordered that the instruments of execution be brought out and placed before him. “Do you think, emperor, to frighten me with these tools of execution?” asked the saint. “No indeed, you cannot frighten one who wishes to die for Christ! Execution is frightening only for the cowardly, for whom the present life is most precious.” The emperor then directed that the saint be fiercely tortured and beheaded by the sword.
Bishop Anthimus joyfully glorified God with his last breath, and received the crown of martyrdom. (See December 28 for another account of the Nicomedian martyrs.)
Saint Theoctistus of Palestine was a great ascetic who lived in the Judean wilderness in the Wadi Mukellik. At first, he was the companion of Saint Euthymius the Great (January 20) in the ascetic lfe. So great was their mutual affection and oneness of mind that they seemed to live as one soul in two bodies. They were persons of similar virtue and holiness, and they encouraged one another in their struggles. Each year after the Leave-taking of Theophany, they would go into the desert to struggle and pray in solitude, returning to their cells on Palm Sunday.
After five years together, Saints Euthymius and Theoctistus went into the desert for Great Lent, and in a wadi they discovered a large cave which later became a church. They decided to remain there, believing that they had been led there by God. They ate wild herbs to sustain themselves, and met with no other people for some time.
The Lord did not wish these great luminaries to remain hidden, however. He wanted their wisdom and holiness of life to become known in order to benefit others. One day, shepherds from Bethany found the ascetics and went back to their village and told others about them. After that, many people came to hear of them, and monks came from other monasteries to visit them. Some even stayed there in order to be instructed by them.
So many monks gathered around them that they were obliged to build a lavra over the cave church. Saint Euthymius made Theoctistus the igumen of the lavra, while he himself lived in seclusion in the cave. The wise Theoctistus accepted all who came to him, confessing them and treating the infirmities of their wounded souls with appropriate spiritual remedies.
When he had reached an advanced old age, Saint Theoctistus became very ill. Saint Euthymius (who was ninety years old himself) visited him and took care of him. When Saint Theoctistus went to the Lord in 467, Patriarch Anastasius of Jerusalem came and presided at his burial service.
Saint Theoctistus of Palestine should not be confused with Saint Theoctistus of Sicily (January 4).
No information available at this time.
Blessed John the Merciful of Rostov (also known as “the Hairy”) struggled at Rostov in the exploit of holy foolishness, enduring much deprivation and sorrow. He did not have a permanent shelter, and at times took his rest at the house of his spiritual Father, a priest at the church of the All-Holy, or with one of the aged widows.
Living in humility, patience and unceasing prayer, he spiritually nourished many people, among them Saint Irenarchus, Hermit of Rostov (January 13). After a long life of pursuing asceticism, he died on September 3, 1580 and was buried, according to his final wishes, beside the church of Saint Blaise beyond the altar.
He had “hair upon his head abundantly,” therefore he was called “Hairy.” The title “Merciful” was given to Blessed John because of the many healings that occurred at his grave, and also in connection with the memory of the holy Patriarch John the Merciful (November 12), whose name he shared.
Saint Phoebe the Deaconess is mentioned by the holy Apostle Paul (Romans 16:1-2).
The Martyr Basilissa of Nicomedia suffered for her faith in Christ under the emperor Diocletian. The Nicomedia governor Alexander gave orders to arrest the nine-year-old Basilissa and force her to renounce Christ. But the young maiden displayed unshakable firmness in fidelity to her Lord, and so she was subjected to protracted and intense torture.
Through the grace of God, the holy martyr remained alive and unharmed. This was evident to all those present as a manifestation of the power of God, and it so upset the governor Alexander, that he also came to believe in Christ and confessed himself a Christian.
Baptized later by Bishop Anthimus, he lived for a short while in deep repentance, and then departed peacefully to the Lord, as did Saint Basilissa some while after him. Her death was peaceful and accompanied by miraculous signs of God’s mercy.
Saint Aristion was the bishop of lesser Alexandria in Cilicia (Asia Minor). He was born in the small town of Aribazo in the eparchy of Apamea, Syria at the beginning of the second century. His parents were pagans, and he spent his early years in an atmosphere of idolatry.
We do not know what sort of early education Saint Aristion received, nor where he studied, but it did not satisfy his search for the truth. A ten-year-old boy who lived in the same town, the future martyr Anthony, showed him the path which led to the truth. Anthony instructed him in the true Faith, and Aristion increased in piety and zeal for God.
It is significant that Anthony, despite the constant fear of persecution, exile and even danger to his own life, was not just a member of the local church, but also preached the Faith to others. It is certain that Aristion prayed for his young friend and remembered his courage and strength, for Anthony’s efforts to bring Aristion to the saving Faith had born fruit and were not in vain. Not only did Anthony give himself to the Church through his martyrdom at the age of twenty, he also gave it another saint and martyr: Saint Aristion
Years later, Saint Aristion was consecrated bishop for Isso in Cilicia, which is found in lesser Alexandria. He was a good shepherd to his flock, and cared diligently for their souls.
One day the ruler of Alexandria had Saint Aristion arrested because he was a Christian. Although he was placed on public trial, the holy bishop was calm and showed no fear. His whole demeanor made the Roman eparch realize that it would not easy to deal with this man who stood before him. He tried to turn Aristion from Christ through flattery and promises of reward, but the saint stood firm. Seeing that his words had no effect on the bishop, he threatened him with fierce tortures. He was not influenced by these threats, however.
Saint Aristion stood before the eparch and his counselors, gazing at them with love and concern for their salvation. Even in his weakness, this captive was stronger than his captors, and he refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods.
Before a multitude of idolaters, Saint Aristion spoke of the Triune God, by Whom all things were created. He also told them about the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was accomplished through God’s saving dispensation. He explained that Christ brings salvation to fallen man, thereby giving him another chance to attain the true purpose of his life—theosis.
“How poor these soulless statues of the gods are,” the bishop said, “and how helpless the eparch looks in his radiant apparel.”
All who heard the saint speak were amazed and asked one another where he got such courage. Aristion invited them to believe in the truth which he was revealing to them. Those who watched understood that this holy man was someone special, and they wanted to hear more about his beliefs.
The Roman eparch could not find any way to resist Aristion except through violence, so he sentenced him to death. He commanded his soldiers to prepare a large furnace and then throw him into the flames.The saint went to his martyrdom without resistance, remaining brave and strong until the end. The few Christians who were present tried not to weep.They whispered prayers for him, and were saddened because their father was leaving them. They knew, however, that their archpastor would not cease praying for them, especially now that he was going to Christ. They could hear Saint Aristion singing hymns in the fire until his last breath.
The eparch did not know what a terrible mistake he had made. He did not realize that death is not the end for men, nor for the truth. Nothing could separate Saint Aristion from the Fountain of Life, and so the Lord bestowed upon him an imperishable crown of glory.
After the flames died down, his spiritual children approached the furnace and collected as many of his bones as they could. With great reverence they put the holy relics in a secret place, which remains unknown to the present day.
A more detailed biography of the saint has been published (in Greek): THE HOLY HIEROMARTYR ARISTION, by John G. Thalassinos (Athens, 2003). This volume also contains the Service to the saint, which was composed by Hieromonk Athanasius of Simonopetra Monastery on Mt. Athos.
Saint Joannicius, Patriarch of Serbia, was a native of the city of Prizren. At first, he was a secretary under King Karl (Charles) of Serbia, and later on from the year 1339, he guided the Church as Archbishop.
In the year 1346 a Council of all the Serbian archpastors, and including also the Patriarch of Bulgaria, at the wish of King Dushan, chose Archbishop Joannicius as Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Saint Joannicius reposed on September 3, 1349 and was buried in the Pech monastery.
The Pisidia Icon of the Mother of God was glorified by miracles in the city of Sozopolis, but its origin is unknown. Saint Germanus, the Patriarch of Constantinople (May 12), mentions “the icon of the All-Pure Virgin Mother of God at Pisidian Sozopolis” in his letters on the veneration of icons which were read at the Seventh Ecumenical Council. He said that “myrrh flowed from the hands,” and described the icon as “ancient.”
The miracles of the icon date back to the sixth century. One of the miracles was reported by the presbyter Eustathius, who was a contemporary of Patriarch Eutychius (April 6). At Amasea, near Sozopolis, there was a certain married couple, whose children were all stillborn. Grieving over their misfortune, they turned to Patriarch Eutychius for advice. Saint Eutychius prayed and anointed them with holy oil from the Cross of the Lord and from the holy icon of the Mother of God saying, “In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Name your child Peter, and he will live,” he said to them. Soon the couple gave birth to a son whom they did indeed name Peter. Later, they had a second son, whom they named John. The people of the city glorified God when they heard of this miracle.
For about 600 years myrrh flowed from the Pisidian Icon of the Mother of God – Eleusius, a disciple of Saint Theodore the Sykeote (April 22), was a witness to this. A copy of this ancient wonderworking icon was made in Russia in 1608, at Moscow’s Novospassky (New Monastery of the Transfiguration of the Savior) monastery. The Mother of God is depicted with the Divine Infant on Her left arm, and with Her right hand She gives a blessing.
No information available at this time.