THURSDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK
Phocas the Martyr, Bishop of Sinope, Phocas the Gardener, Martyrs Isaac, Martin, and the 26 Monk-martyrs of Zographou Monastery
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 3:23-29; 4:1-5
Brethren, before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
At that time, Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
Hieromartyr Phocas was born in the city of Sinope. From youth he led a virtuous Christian life, and in his adult years he became Bishop of Sinope. Saint Phocas converted many pagans to faith in Christ. At the time of a persecution against Christians under the emperor Trajan (98-117), the governor demanded that the saint renounce Christ. After fierce torture they enclosed Saint Phocas in a hot bath, where he died a martyr’s death in the year 117.
In the year 404, the relics of the saint were transferred to Constantinople (July 22).
The Hieromartyr Phocas is especially venerated as a defender against fires, and also as a helper of the drowning.
The Holy Prophet Jonah lived in the eighth century before the birth of Christ and was a successor of the Prophet Elisha. The Book of the Prophet Jonah contains prophecies about the judgments on the Israelite nation, the sufferings of the Savior, the downfall of Jerusalem, and the end of the world. Besides the prophecies, the Book of Jonah relates how he was sent to the Ninevites to preach repentance (Jon. 3: 3-10).
Our Lord Jesus Christ, addressing the Scribes and the Pharisees who demanded a sign from Him, said that no sign would be given except for the sign of the Prophet Jonah, “As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so also shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Mt. 12: 40). From these words the Lord shows clearly the symbolic meaning of the Book of the Prophet Jonah in relation to Christ’s death on the Cross, descent into Hell, and the Resurrection.
Reproaching the lack of penitence and recalcitrance of the Jews, the Lord said, “The Ninevites shall rise in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and one greater than Jonah is here” (Mt. 12: 41).
Saint Jonah the Presbyter, Father of Saints Theophanes the Hymnographer (October 11) and Theodore the Branded (December 27), lived in Palestine in the late eighth to early ninth centuries.
Saint Jonah lived a virtuous and holy life. He had two sons who were glorified afterwards for their confession of Orthodoxy during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of his wife, Saint Jonah withdrew to the Lavra of Saint Savva the Sanctified (December 5), where both his sons earlier had been tonsured as monks. Saint Jonah dwelt at the Lavra until his death in the ninth century. The Lord bestowed upon His saint the gift of healing.
Saint Jonah of Yash Lake was born in the village of Shoksha, sixteen versts from the monastery later established by him. The foundation of the monastery took place in 1580, when a wooden church was built in honor of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, and eight monks joined together with the monk to labor in asceticism.
Saint Jonah toiled with great concern over the building up of the monastery. Thus, for example, in order to ease the catching of fish, he himself dug a channel from Yash Lake to the nearby Lake Senno. He often rode horseback along the solitary paths of the forest in search of necessities for the monastery.
The ascetic made vessels from wood to be used for the divine services. In time the monk became known for his holy life far beyond the bounds of the monastery. Many pilgrims brought gifts, among which also were Church service books. The boundaries of the monastery expanded, and the number of churches increased. Profound love and reverence for the ascetic were demonstrated by Metropolitan Isidore of Novgorod, by Igumen James of the Solovki monastery, by Saint Irenarchus (July 17), and also by many other contemporaries.
Saint Jonah died at the end of the sixteenth century and was buried in the Annunciation monastery founded by him.
The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener came from the city of Sinope on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Having a small garden, he lived modestly. He sold what he grew, and supported himself on the proceeds. He helped the needy and paid for the housing of vagrants. The Christian piety of the saint had a great influence on other people. Even pagans deferred to him with deep respect. Under his influence they often abandoned their error and accepted the Christian Faith.
The governor of the district, aware that Saint Phocas was spreading Christian teachings, gave orders to find and kill him. The saint himself accidentally came upon those sent after him, and without revealing his name, he courteously received them, fed them and prepared a place for them to spend the night.
At night he went into the garden, then prepared a grave and a place for his burial. He even made arrangements for all his possessions to be distributed to the poor after his death. In the morning Saint Phocas declared to the strangers that it was he for whom they were searching, and told them to fulfill the duty entrusted to them. The visitors were distressed, not wanting to kill the kindly saint. They felt honor bound to spare Saint Phocas, but he would not hear of it, and humbly bent his head beneath the sword.
They buried the holy Martyr Phocas in the grave that he himself had prepared in the garden. The place of his burial was glorified by miracles, and later a church was built there. An accurate account of the martyr’s death was collected by Asterius of Amasea (+ 410). The holy Martyr Phocas is especially venerated by seafarers, and he is called upon by those traveling by sea.
Saint Peter, Former Tax-Collector, was the chief collector of taxes in Africa in the service of the emperor Justinian (527-565). He was a cruel and merciless man.
One day he threw a morsel of bread to a beggar who annoyed him by incessantly begging alms. In a vision Peter saw himself as dead and how the holy Angels weighed his deeds on the scale of the righteous judgment of God. On the side of good deeds nothing was placed except a morsel of bread, thrown at the beggar, but this prevented the opposite side from being pulled down by his vicious deeds.
Peter pondered the meaning of the dream, and thought that if one loaf of bread, thrown involuntarily, was of such help to him, then he might receive much more help for good deeds performed with compassion and from the heart. He repented and completely changed his life. He liberally distributed alms to the needy, and fed and clothed many.
One day, in a dream, Peter saw Jesus Christ. The Lord was dressed in clothes which the saint once gave to a beggar. Peter then distributed his substance to the poor and ordered his slave to sell him into slavery and to give the money to the poor. The slave reluctantly carried out the orders of his master.
For many years Saint Peter worked diligently and humbly for his master. One day he was recognized by tradesmen to whom he had been known earlier. They told the master who his servant was. Having overheard this conversation, the saint quickly fled from the city. In departing, he worked a miracle: the gatekeeper, a deaf-mute slave, was ordered by Saint Peter to open the gates in the name of Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the command, and at once received his hearing and speech. He rushed around everywhere to tell his master and added moreover, that when the saint commanded him to open the gates, fire came forth from his mouth touching his face, after which he began to hear and speak. Everyone went to look for Peter, but the search proved in vain. The saint hid and remained hidden until his death.
The life of Saint Peter was passed along by Saint John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria (November 12), who in turn knew it from a man personally acquainted with the saint.
Saint Peter is commemorated on January 20 according to Greek usage.
No information available at this time.
Saint Alexander Nevsky, Great Prince August 30 (translation of relics in 1724), November 22 (his burial in 1263)
Saint Alexander, soldier, schemamonk, disciple of Saint Sergius. September 7 (+1390)
Saint Alexander, soldier, schemamonk, disciple of Saint Sergius. September 7 (+1380)
Saint Boris (Roman in Baptism), Prince, Passion-Bearer. May 2 (transfer of relics in 1072), July 24 (commemorated with Saint Gleb) (+1015)
Saint Gleb (David in Baptism), Prince, Passion-Bearer. May 2 (transfer of relics in 1115), July 24 (commemorated with Saint Boris), September 5 (martyrdom) (+1015)
Saint Demetrius Donskoy, Great Prince. May 19 (+1389)
Saint Igor (George in Baptism, Gabriel in monasticism), Great Prince. June 5 (transfer of relics in 1150), September 19 (+1147)
Saint John I Kalita, Great Prince. (+ 1340, date unknown)
Saint Kushka, Hieromonk of the Kiev Near Caves, hieromartyr. (+ after 1114)
Saint Macarius, abbot of Zhabyn, hieroschemamonk, wonderworker. January 22 (+1623)
Blessed Matrona the Blind of Moscow. April 19 (+1952)
Saint Michael of Chernigov, Great Prince, martyr, wonderworker. February 14 (transfer of relics in 1578), September 20 (martyrdom +1245)
Saint Nikḗtas, Bishop of Belev, hieromartyr (+1938) September 3 (glorification)
Saint Nicola Sviatosha, monk, prince, wonderworker. October 14 (+1143)
Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia. May 9 (transfer of relics), December 6 (repose), July 29 (birth).
Saint Nikon, martyr, disciple of Saint Kushka. August 27 (+ after 1114)
Saint Onesimus, Bishop of Tula, New Martyr. February 14 (+1937), September 3 (glorification)
Saint Peter (Pavlushov), hieromartyr November 10, September 3 (glorification)
Saint Pimen, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 1571, no date)
Saint Theoctistus, Bishop of Chernigov, August 5 (+1123)
Saint Cosmas the Anchorite of Zographou Monastery was born into an aristocratic family in Bulgaria toward the end of the XVIII century, and was proficient in Greek as well as Bulgarian. When his parents desired him to get married, he left their home surreptitiously and headed for the far-famed Holy Mountain: Mount Athos. Along the way, the devil tried to thwart the young man's intentions, vexing him with a vision of the infinite abyss of the sea which surrounds the Holy Mountain, but the Saint was able to overcome this demonic temptation with prayer.
Arriving at Zographou Monastery, Saint Cosmas became a novice for a short time, and then he received the monastic tonsure, and was appointed to the position of Ecclesiarch. On the Feast of the Annunciation, Saint Cosmas was astonished to see the Most Holy Theotokos serving the monks of Vatopaidi Monastery, both during the Church Services and in the trapeza.
Because of his virtues, the Superior had the Saint ordained as a deacon, and then as a priest, which inspired him to even greater efforts. Zealous for his salvation, Saint Cosmas prayed to the Mother of God, and was granted a sign of her special favor. He heard her voice emanating from her icon, asking her Son, "How shall Cosmas be saved?" The Lord replied, "He must leave the monastery and live in solitude."
After obtaining the Superior's blessing, Saint Cosmas withdrew into the wilderness, where he lived in a cave. There he confessed those who came to him, and was found worthy of the gift of clairvoyance, working miracles, seeing divine visions, and even predicting the time of his death.
Not long before that day, Christ appeared to Saint Cosmas, informing him that before his departure to the Kingdom of Heaven, Satan and his demonic hosts would attack him and beat him. As he had done at the start of the venerable one's ascetic life, the Enemy of mankind tried once again to turn Saint Cosmas away from his intended path; thus the final days before his death were a grievous trial for him. Prepared to face these trials by the words of the Savior, the Saint endured the fearful demonic assaults. After three days of being severely beaten by the demons, he received the Immaculate Mysteries of Christ. With words of praise on his lips, he departed peacefully to the Lord.
God, Who glorifies those who glorify Him, also glorified Saint Cosmas at the time of his death on September 22, 1323. As he was buried, a multitude of beasts and birds flocked to his cave, as if they sensed the sorrow of the entire Holy Mountain. When the Saint's body was placed in the grave and they began to cover it with dirt, each of the mute creatures uttered a mournful cry, and then returned to the wilderness. In this manner, they paid their final respects to Saint Cosmas.
Forty days later, when the brethren opened the saint’s tomb after the All-night Vigil in order to move his relics to the monastery with honor, they were not to be found. The Lord had hidden them in a miraculous way.
Saint Cosmas is also commemorated on the second Sunday after Pentecost, the Synaxis of All Saints of Mount Athos.
This wonderworking Icon is at Zographou Monastery on Mount Athos. The name of the Hearer Icon of the Mother of God (Παναγία Επακούουσα, or Услы́шательница in Russian) is explained by the following miraculous sign.
The venerable Cosmas was living a life of asceticism at Zographou Monastery in the XIV century. When he was still a young man, he visited Vatopaidi Monastery on the Feast of the Annunciation, which is that Monastery's Feast Day. There in the church during the service, and later in the trapeza, he saw a beautiful, majestic woman. Saint Cosmas was astonished and troubled to see her there on Mount Athos, because no woman is permitted to set foot on the Holy Mountain, so he was unable to understand why the monks allowed her to be there. While he was pondering these things, he returned to his Elder, who noticed his disciple's confusion and asked him, "Why are you so sad and pensive?"
Cosmas told him what he had seen at Vatopaidi Monastery, and revealed all of his doubts and thoughts about seeing a woman there with the monks.
"What sort of woman was she," the Elder asked, "and how was she dressed?"
Cosmas described her appearance in detail. Then, with a reproachful sigh, the Elder rebuked his disciple: "Didn't you bother to find out what sort of woman was at the monastery? This was not an ordinary mortal woman; she is the Queen of our Holy Mountain and of all creation herself!"
For some time after this, the venerable Cosmas remained alone in the monastery church, praying fervently before an Icon of the Mother of God. He exclaimed, "Most Holy Theotokos, pray that your Son and God may set me on the path of salvation!"
As soon as he uttered these words, he heard the voice of the Mother of God coming from the Icon and saying, "My Son and my God, teach Your servant how he may be saved."
At once the Lord replied, "Let him leave the monastery to live in solitude and in stillness" (ησυχία).1
With the Superior's blessing, Saint Cosmas left his monastery and went into the wilderness, where he dug a cave out of a cliff, spending the rest of his life there in continuous asceticism. He made great progress in the hesychastic life, and so he was found worthy of the gifts of clairvoyance, working miracles, seeing divine visions, and even predicting the time of his death, which occurred on September 22, 1323.
The Icon before which Saint Cosmas prayed, and from which he heard the voice of the Mother of God, was named "The Hearer," because she heard his prayer. It is still in the katholikon of Zographou Monastery, in the altar, on the eastern wall, which extends into the diakonikon.2
1 In the Lives of the Saints, and the writings of the Holy Fathers, stillness, or quiet, is essential for mental prayer, or prayer of the heart. In order to be effective, the Jesus Prayer requires the greatest inner and outer quiet or stillness. It is also called pure prayer because it presupposes a mind and heart free from fantasies, passions, and thoughts.
2 The διακονικόν is a room on the south side of a church, behind the iconostasis, where vestments, books, charcoal, etc. are stored. There is a sink, towels, and other necessary items used in the services.