NIKITAS THE GREAT MARTYR
Nikitas the Great Martyr, Philotheos the Righteous, Bessarion of Larissa, Righteous Father Symeon, Archbishop of Thessolonica, John the New Martyr of Sfakion, Crete, Afterfeast of the Holy Cross, Porphyrios the Actor
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE COLOSSIANS 1:24-29, 2:1
Brethren, now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me. For I want you to know how greatly I strive for you.
The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”
From September 15 until the Leavetaking, we sing “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O son of God crucified in the flesh, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia” at weekday Liturgies following the Little Entrance.
The Holy Great Martyr Nikḗtas was a Goth (a Germanic tribe). He was born and lived on the banks of the Danube River, suffering for Christ in the year 372. The Christian Faith was already spreading throughout the territory of the Goths at that time. Saint Nikḗtas believed in Christ and was baptized by the Gothic bishop Theophilos, who participated in the First Ecumenical Council. Pagan Goths started to oppose the spread of Christianity, which resulted in a civil war.
After Fritigern, at the head of a Christian army, defeated the pagan Athanaric, the Christian Faith continued to spread among the Goths. The Arian bishop Ulfilas, the successor to Bishop Theophilos, created a Gothic alphabet and translated many priestly books into the Gothic language. Saint Nikḗtas worked tirelessly among his fellow Goths to teach them about Christ. Through his personal example and inspired words, he brought many of them to the Christian Faith.
After his defeat, however, Athanaric managed to regroup his forces. He returned to his own country and regained his former power. Since he remained a pagan, he continued to hate the Christians and persecuted them, seeking revenge for the humiliation he had endured at their hands.
Saint Nikḗtas had to contend against both visible and invisible enemies. In opposing these invisible enemies, he converted many pagans to Christ, and strengthened the faithful for the contest of martyrdom. Filled with zeal for God, the Saint denounced the persecutor Athanaric for his cruelty and impiety, because he subjected the Christians to severe torments.
Saint Nikḗtas prevailed against both of these enemies. He trampled the devil underfoot, and defeated Athanaric in battle. The cruel tormentor was troubled because he was unable to convert Saint Nikḗtas to his own impiety, and so he resolved to capture the Saint and put him to death.
Saint Nikḗtas endured many tortures, and then he was thrown into a fire. Although his body was not burnt by the fire, he surrendered his soul to God, and his relics were illumined by a radiant light. By night, a Christian named Marianus, took the body of Saint Nikḗtas, and buried it in Cilicia. Afterward, it was transferred to Constantinople. Part of the relics of the Great Martyr Nikḗtas were later given to the monastery of Vysokie Dechani in Serbia. Thus Saint Nikḗtas received an unfading crown of glory from Christ on September 15, 372.
We pray to Saint Nikḗtas for the preservation of children from birth defects.
Saint Acacius the Confessor lived during the Decian persecution, and was Bishop of Melitene, Armenia.
Arrested as a Christian, Saint Acacius was brought before the governor Marcianus, who ordered that he be tortured. He was not put to death, but was set free after a while, bearing the wounds of Christ on his body. He died in peace.
Saint Acacius the Confessor is also commemorated on March 31. He should not be confused with another Saint Acacius of Melitene (April 17) who lived in the fifth century.
The Holy Martyr Theodotus suffered with Saints Maximus and Asklepiodote, at the beginning of the fourth century under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). Eminent citizens of the city of Marcianopolis, Maximus, and Asklepiodote led a devout Christian life. By their example they brought many to faith in Christ and to holy Baptism.
During the persecution Tiris, the governor of Thrace, went around the city subject to him and persecuted those believing in Christ. He summoned Maximus and Asklepiodote before him and demanded they abandon the Christian Faith. When the martyrs refused, he ordered that they be beaten.
Then a certain pious man named Theodotus, began to reproach the governor for his inhumanity and cruelty. They seized him also, and hanging him on a tree, they tortured him with iron hooks. After this, they threw the three martyrs into prison. Tiris traveled for two weeks more and took the holy martyrs along with him.
In the city of Adrianopolis he put them to still greater tortures, commanding that their bodies be scorched with white-hot plates. In the midst of their suffering they heard a Voice from Heaven encouraging them to persevere. After several days of torture they threw the martyrs to be eaten by wild beasts in the circus, but instead the she-bear released upon Saints Maximus and Theodotus began to cuddle up to them.
Saint Asklepiodote was tied to a bull, but she seemed to be rooted to the spot, and did not budge. Tiris resumed the journey and stopped in the village of Saltis before reaching the city of Philippopolis. Again he urged the martyrs to renounce Christ. When they refused, he ordered them to be beheaded. God’s wrath overtook him when a bolt of lightning struck him as he sat upon the judgment seat.
The Holy Martyr Porphyrius suffered during the reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363). Porphyrius was an actor and on the emperor’s birthday he was performing a role at the theater, where he was supposed to mock the mystery of holy Baptism.
During the play Porphyrius was immersed in water and said: “The servant of God, Porphyrius, is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Through divine grace, he emerged from the water and confessed himself a Christian. Julian ordered him to be tortured, and after the torments, to be beheaded. This took place in the city of Ephesus in the year 361.
During the reign of Saint Constantine the Great (May 21), Saint Stephen appeared three times to a pious old priest named Lukianos and revealed to him the place where his relics had been hidden. He informed Patriarch John of Jerusalem, who went to the designated spot and found the sacred relics of the Holy Protomartyr Stephen.
When the Saint’s relics were discovered, there was a great earthquake and those who were present noticed a beautiful fragrance suffusing the whole area. It is said that angelic voices were heard from Heaven saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men of good will” (Luke 2:14). That is to say, “Glory be to God in the highest places of Heaven, and here on this earth troubled by sin, may divine peace reign; for God has demonstrated His good will toward mankind, by the Incarnation of His Son.” Thus, the angels made it clear that the Protomartyr Stephen had endured martyrdom for the love and glory of God.
In 415, the relics of Saints Stephen, Gamaliel, and Νikόdēmos were miraculously discovered and solemnly transferred to Jerusalem by Archbishop John, along with Bishops Eutonius of Sebaste and Eleutherius of Jericho. From that time on, the relics began to work miracles of healing.
Subsequently, in the reign of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450), the relics of the holy Protomartyr Stephen were transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople and placed in the church dedicated to the holy Deacon Laurence (August 10), and were transferred there on August 2, until a church could be built in honor of Saint Stephen.
Saint Stephen’s right hand is kept in the Serapion Chamber of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra.
The Holy Presbyter and Wonderworker Philotheus lived in the tenth century in the village of Mravin (or Myrmix) located in Bythnia in Asia Minor. He was a married priest, and had children. He devoted himself to deeds of prayer and fasting, and works of charity. Because of his holy life, Saint Philotheus received from God the gift of working miracles. The ascetic continually fed the hungry and helped the needy. Saint Philotheus died in peace. Myrrh flowed from his relics.
Blessed Abba Joseph of Alaverdi was a disciple and companion of Saint John of Zedazeni, who in the 6th century arrived in Georgia with twelve Syrian ascetics to spread the Christian Faith.
With the blessing of his teacher, Fr. Joseph settled in the village of Alaverdi in eastern Georgia. According to tradition, he carried with him a cross formed from the wood of the Life-giving Cross of our Savior.
At that time the region around Alaverdi was deserted and barren. One day the Lord sent a nobleman to hunt in the valley where the pious hermit dwelt among the wild animals. Seeing the saint, the nobleman guessed immediately that before him stood a holy man. He bowed before him, kissed him, and humbly asked what had brought him to this deserted place.
With the help of God, Saint Joseph aroused in the nobleman a divine love and an unquenchable desire for the Truth. The nobleman vowed to erect a church in the Alaverdi Wilderness, and he laid the foundations of Alaverdi Monastery in fulfillment of this vow. Venerable Joseph was overjoyed at the accomplishment of this God-pleasing work.
Soon the people began to hear stories about the holy elder who was laboring in Alaverdi. Crowds of the faithful flocked there to see him with their own eyes and hear the blessed Joseph’s preaching. As a result of his unceasing efforts, unbelief was uprooted, and the divine services of the Church were firmly established in that region. Many of the faithful were so drawn to Abba Joseph’s holy life, boundless love, and miracles that they left the world to join in his labors.
Gradually the number of hermits increased, and a large community was formed. Fr. Joseph was the first abbot of this brotherhood. Utterly exhausted from a life of God-pleasing ascesis and labors, Saint Joseph sensed the approach of death and prepared to stand before the Lord God. He gathered his disciples, blessed them, instructed them for the last time, appointed a new abbot, and peacefully departed to the Lord.
With great honor Fr. Joseph’s disciples buried him at the Alaverdi Church. Many miracles have since occurred over the grave of the venerable elder.
Saint Joseph the New was born in 1568 at Raguza in Dalmatia, and was given the name Jacob at his Baptism. When he was very young, his father died, and he was raised by his mother. At the age of twelve, he was sent to Ochrid to be schooled.
The young Jacob was called to live the monastic life when he was fifteen, and entered the monastery of the Mother of God. After five years, he traveled to Mount Athos, and was tonsured at the Pantokrator Monastery with the new name of Joseph. He fulfilled his various obediences in an exemplary manner, becoming perfected in virtue and holiness. He attained unceasing prayer of the heart, receiving from God the gift of tears. He also performed many miracles, healing the sick and the crippled. Some of the monasteries of the Holy Mountain would send for him so that he could heal those monks who were afflicted with severe bodily suffering.
On July 20, 1650, at the age of eighty-two, Saint Joseph was elected as Metropolitan of Timishoara. He was a wise and good shepherd to his flock, healing their physical and spiritual illnesses. Once he extinguished a fire in the western part of Timishoara by his prayers, when God sent a heavy rainfall.
After three years of archpastoral labors, he retired to the Partosh Monastery, where he was often visited by many of the faithful. The monastery was an important center of church activity in those days, and even had a school for training priests.
Metropolitan Joseph fell asleep in the Lord on August 15, 1656 when he was eighty-eight years old, and he was buried in the monastery church. He is commemorated on September 15.
He worked many miracles during his lifetime, and there are reports that his relics remained incorrupt after his death.
For more than 300 years the monks reverently tended his grave, then at his glorification on October 7, 1956 Saint Joseph’s relics were transferred into the cathedral at Timishoara. The casket containing his holy relics is adorned with carvings depicting scenes from his life.
An Akathist composed to honor Saint Joseph speaks of his many virtues.
Saint Bessarion, Archbishop of Larissa, lived during the sixteenth century and founded the Dusika monastery in Thessaly.
Saint Gerasimus founded a monastery in honor of the Holy Trinity near Makrinitsa in Zagora (Mizia). This monastery received the name Zurvia (Survias).
The New Martyr John was from Crete, and worked as a farmer at New Ephesus (Kusantasi) in Asia Minor. He was a young man, and was engaged to be married.
On August 29, John and two friends from Crete went to a festival to celebrate the Feast of Saint John the Baptist. They were stopped by the Turks, and the two visitors were ordered to pay the head tax. The Cretans refused to pay, and got into a scuffle with the aga’s men. The Turks took a gun belonging to one of the Cretans, but then he grabbed it back from the Moslem. In the confusion, one of the aga’s men was killed and some of the others were stabbed.
Since John was not involved in the incident, he went back to his farm. The brother of the dead Moslem, however, wanted revenge. He knew that John was present when his brother was killed, so he had him arrested. John was thrown into prison, beaten, and was not allowed to have any visitors.
Saint John remained in prison for sixteen days. Then he was given the choice of saving his life by converting to Islam, or to remain a Christian and die. John stated, “I was born as an Orthodox Christian, and I shall die as an Orthodox Christian.”
Since John was an attractive young man, the kadi’s daughter became interested in him. If he were willing to convert, he could marry the girl and enjoy both wealth and position as a member of the kadi’s family. Even this was not enough to make him deny Christ.
Finally the Hagarenes grew tired of trying to convert John, and he was sentenced to death by hanging. As he was led to the place of execution, he kept saying, “Most Holy Theotokos, help me.” He also asked forgiveness of the Christians he met along the way.
Saint John suffered for Christ on September 15, 1811, and received the incorruptible crown of martyrdom. That night the martyr’s body shone with a bright light. After three days, permission was granted to bury his holy relics in the courtyard of the church of Saint George.
This is one of the most ancient icons of the Mother of God. It appeared to the holy martyr Nikḗtas (+ September 15, 372). Saint Nikḗtas, a former soldier, was a disciple of Bishop Theophilos of the Goths. Even before he was baptized, he saw a Child in a dream, holding a Cross in His hand. When he awakened, he thought about this for a long time, but was unable to understand what this vision signified. A Christian girl named Juliana, who had a special revelation from God, told him to look down at his chest.
To his unspeakable surprise, Nikḗtas found an Icon of the Mother of God on his chest. She held her divine Child on her lap, and He was holding a Cross in His hand. "This is the same Icon I saw in my dream," the startled Nikḗtas cried. The appearance of the Icon made such an impression on him that he was baptized right away.
Soon afterward, the persecution of Christians began, and Saint Nikḗtas received the crown of martyrdom along with many other confessors. When he was being led to the place of execution, he had on his chest, under his clothes, the Icon of the Mother of God which had appeared to him.
It was established that the Novonikḗta Icon of the Mother of God should be commemorated on the day of Saint Nikḗtas's martyrdom.
The list of miracles from this Icon is in Moscow, in the court cathedral, which is dedicated to the All-Merciful Savior, at the Gate of Saint Nikḗtas.