SATURDAY BEFORE HOLY CROSS
Menodora, Metrodora, & Nymphodora the Martyrs, Poulcheria the Empress, Afterfeast of the Nativity of the Theotokos
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 2:6-9
Brethren, among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
MATTHEW 10:37-42, 11:1
The Lord said, "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. And whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward." And when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.
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The Holy Virgins Menodora, Nymphodora, and Metrodora (305-311), were sisters from Bithynia (Asia Minor). Distinguished for their special piety, they wanted to preserve their virginity and avoid worldly associations. They chose a solitary place for themselves in the wilderness and spent their lives in deeds of fasting and prayer.
Reports of the holy life of the virgins soon spread, since healings of the sick began to occur through their prayers. The Bithynia region was governed at that time by a man named Frontonus, who ordered that the sisters be arrested and brought before him.
At first he tried to persuade them to renounce Christ, promising great honors and rewards. But the holy sisters steadfastly confessed their faith before him, rejecting all his suggestions. They told him that they did not value the temporal things of this world, and that they were prepared to die for their Heavenly Bridegroom, for death would be their gateway to eternal life.
Flying into a rage, the governor took out his wrath on Saint Menodora, the eldest sister. She was stripped of her clothes and beaten by four men, while a herald urged her to offer sacrifice to the gods. The saint bravely endured the torments and cried out, “Sacrifice? Can’t you see that I am offering myself as a sacrifice to my God?” Then they renewed their torments with even greater severity. Then the martyr cried out, “ Lord Jesus Christ, joy of my heart, my hope, receive my soul in peace.” With these words she gave up her soul to God, and went to her Heavenly Bridegroom.
Four days later, they brought the two younger sisters Metrodora and Nymphodora to the court. They showed them the battered body of their older sister to frighten them. The virgins wept over her, but remained steadfast.
Then Saint Metrodora was tortured. She died, crying out to her beloved Lord Jesus Christ with her last breath. Then they turned to the third sister, Nymphodora. Before her lay the bruised bodies of her sisters. Frontonus hoped that this sight would intimidate the young virgin.
Pretending that he was charmed by her youth and beauty, he urged her to worship the pagan gods, promising great rewards and honors. Saint Nymphodora scoffed at his words, and shared the fate of her older sisters. She was tortured and beaten to death with iron rods.
The bodies of the holy martyrs were to be burned in a fire, but a heavy rain extinguished the blazing fire, and lightning struck down Frontonus and his servant. Christians took up the bodies of the holy sisters and reverently buried them at the so-called Warm Springs at Pythias (Bithynia).
Part of the relics of the holy martyrs are preserved on Mt. Athos in the Protection cathedral of the Saint Panteleimon Russian monastery, and the hand of Saint Metrodora is on the Holy Mountain in the monastery of the Pantocrator.
Saint Paul the Obedient was an ascetic in the Far Caves at Kiev. Upon assuming the monastic schema at the monastery of the Caves, the monk underwent very burdensome obediences without a murmur, on which the monastery’s Superior had sent him.
He was never idle, and when he was not at an obedience, he ground the grain under the millstone, wearing down his body by this heavy work and attaining ceaseless inner prayer. The Church honors his memory on September 10, on the day of his namesake Saint Paul, Bishop of Nicea.
Saint Joasaph of Kubensk, Wonderworker of Vologda, was baptized with the name Andrew. His parents, Prince Demetrius Vasilievich of Lesser Zaozersk (a descendant of holy Prince Theodore Rostislavich, of Smolensk and Yaroslavl), and Princess Maria, were known for their deep piety, which they imparted to the future ascetic. At twenty years of age, Prince Andrew accepted tonsure at the Kamenny Monastery of the Savior at Kubensk with the name Joasaph, in honor of Saint Joasaph, the Prince of India (November 19).
Saint Joasaph gained a good reputation for himself by complete obedience, keeping the fasts, by his zeal in prayer, and love for books. The brethren of the monastery were amazed at the gracious meekness and humility of the young ascetic. Under the spiritual nurture of the experienced Elder Gregory, afterwards Bishop of Rostov, Saint Joasaph progressed in virtue. He led the life of a hermit in his cell and attained to a high spiritual level. Saint Joasaph lived an ascetic life at the Kamenny Monastery of the Savior for five years.
In the final year of his life, he partook of food only once during the week and received the Holy Mysteries each Sunday. Before his death, Saint Joasaph took leave of the brethren, consoling and admonishing the monks not to grieve over his departure. When the brethren gathered in his cell, the venerable one asked that the Prayers for the Departure of the Soul from the Body be read. He prayed to the Lord and to His All-Holy Mother, not only for himself, but for all the brethren of the monastery. Then he lay down upon his bed and died with prayer on his lips, on September 10, 1453.
Saint Apelles was an important figure in the early Church, who labored diligently to spread the message of the Gospel. His zeal led him to Rome, where he became a support for the faithful. He knew the Apostle Paul, who mentioned him in the Epistle to the Romans (16:10): "Greet Apelles, who is approved (or "has been tested") in Christ."
Saint Apelles is said to have died at Smyrna as a good soldier of Christ, laboring until his last breath to make firm the Gospel. Some say he was the Bishop of Heraklion in Trakhis.
Saint Luke (or Loukias)
Saint Luke, or Loukias (not the Evangelist), lived during the first century. Some lists of these Saints identify him as the Evangelist Luke, who was also one of the 70 Apostles, but Greek sources say he was someone other than the Evangelist Luke (άλλος του Ευαγγελιστή Λουκά). However, Saint Demetrios of Rostov, and Slavic Tradition say that he was the Evangelist Luke (See his Life on October 18).
Today's Saint was consecrated as the Bishop of Laodikeia in Syria, and completed the course of his life spreading the Gospel and caring for his flock, as a faithful servant of Jesus Christ.
Saint Paul refers to Clement in his Epistle to the Phillipians (4:3). After mentioning the women Euodia and Syntykhe, who assisted him in proclaiming the Gospel, he speaks of Clement as one of his coworkers, "whose names are in the Book of Life."
Saint Clement later became a bishop at Sardika in Asia Minor. Eusebius mistakenly identified him with Clement of Rome (History of the Church 3. 15, 1). Today's Saint reposed after enduring many trials in order to strengthen his flock, and to hand down to them the truth of the Gospel.
Saints Apelles, Luke (Loukios), and Clement are also commemorated together on April 22.
Saint Barypsabas (Βαρυψάβας) of Dalmatia was a hermit and a Martyr, the guardian of the blood of Christ. According to one source, a righteous man named Jacob, who was present at the crucifixion of the Savior, collected blood and water from the Lord’s side in a vessel made from a gourd. In order to conceal the holy object from wicked men, Jacob filled the vessel with oil; and from its contents many healings and miracles took place. After Jacob’s death, the vessel passed to two hermits. One of them, before his death, gave the vessel to Barypsabas, or perhaps to the Syrians, who later fought in the area of Kattara Sukhrei (Σουχρεῶν), in Persia. Before his martyrdom in the second century, Saint Barypsabas gave the vessel to his disciple. The author of the Life of Saint Barypsabas, published in Acta Sanctorum (BHG, No. 238), is unknown.
The story of those who shed the Savior's blood appears in the MENOLOGION of Basil II (X century), which also mentions the martyrdom of Saint Barypsabas. Some villains, who heard about the miracles and healings from the hidden vessel containing the blood of Christ, decided to seize the vessel and use it for mercenary purposes. After attacking Barypsabas during the night, they killed him, but they did not find what they were looking for in the vessel.
According to Saint Νikόdēmos the Hagiorite, the vessel, of which Barysabas was the guardian, did not contain the actual blood and water which flowed from Christ's side, but rather from an icon of Christ, when some Jews stabbed His side on the icon.
The legend of the "Miracle in Berite" (BHG, No. 780) is attributed to Saint Athanasios the Great, Patriarch of Alexandria. However, according to the Roman Martyrology, this miracle occurred in 765. The blood from the icon of the Savior in Berite was transferred to Constantinople in the X century, during the reign of Emperor John Tzimiskes.
The Holy Right-Believing Empress Pulcheria, daughter of the Byzantine emperor Arcadius (395-408), was coregent and adviser of her brother Theodosius the Younger (408-450). She received a broad and well-rounded education, and distinguished herself by her wisdom and piety, firmly adhering to Orthodox teaching. Through her efforts the church of the Most Holy Theotokos was built at Blachernae, and also other churches and monasteries.
Through the intrigues of enemies and of Eudokia, the wife of the emperor Theodosius the Younger, Saint Pulcheria was removed from power. She withdrew into seclusion, and lived a pious life. Without her benificent influence, conditions in the capital deteriorated. She returned after a while, following the urgent request of her brother. Then the unrest provoked by emerging heresies was quelled.
After the death of Theodosius the Younger, Marcian (450-457) was chosen emperor. Saint Pulcheria again wanted to withdraw into her seclusion, but both the emperor and officials entreated her not to refuse the throne, but to marry the emperor Marcian. For the common good she consented to become Marcian’s wife if she were allowed to preserve her virginity within the marriage. They were married, but lived in purity as brother and sister.
Through the efforts of Saint Pulcheria, the Third Ecumenical Council was held at Ephesus in 431 to address the heresy of Nestorius; and also the Fourth Ecumenical Council which was convened at Chalcedon in the year 451, to deal with the heresies of Dioscorus and Eutychius.
Saint Pulcheria built the church of the Mother of God at Blachernae at Constantinople, and also found the relics of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste (March 9).
Throughout her life Saint Pulcheria defended the Orthodox Faith against various heresies. After giving away her wealth to the poor and to the Church, she died peacefully at the age of fifty-four in the year 453.
Saints Peter and Paul were bishops at Nicea. Saint Peter defended the Orthodox Faith against the iconoclasts during the reign of Leo the Isaurian (813-820) and endured suffering for this. He died no earlier than the year 823.
Four Letters of Saint Theodore the Studite to Saint Peter are known, written between the years 816-823. No account about the life of Saint Paul of Nicea has been preserved. His name is first mentioned in the so-called “Petrine” Greek Prologue of the eleventh century.