TUESDAY OF THE 2ND WEEK
Callistratus the Martyr & his 49 Companions, Mark, Aristarchos, and Zenon, Apostles of the 70, Akylina the New Martyr of Thessaloniki, Gideon the Righteous
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 5:11-21
Brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? In that case the stumbling block of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would mutilate themselves! For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
At that time, Jesus was in one of the cities, and there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one; but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed.
Saint Callistratus was a native of Carthage. An ancestor of Saint Callistratus, Neochorus, had served under the emperor Tiberius in Palestine, under the command of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judea, and was a witness to the suffering on the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, His voluntary death and glorious Resurrection.
The saint’s father was a Christian, and he raised his son in faith and piety. Also like his father, Saint Callistratus became a soldier and excelled among his pagan military comrades by his good conduct and gentle disposition.
At night when everyone slept, he usually stayed up at prayer. Once, a soldier sleeping nearby heard Saint Callistratus invoking the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he reported this to the military commander, who in turn summoned Callistratus, interrogated him and wanted to make him offer sacrifice to idols. The saint resolutely refused to do this, so the military commander ordered that the saint be beaten. Then, covered with wounds, the saint was dragged over sharp stones. The beating and the torments did not sway the firm will and brave endurance of the sufferer.
The saint was sewn up in a leather sack and drowned in the sea. By God’s mercy, however, the sack struck a sharp rock and was torn open. Saint Callistratus came to dry land unharmed, carried by dolphins. Viewing such a miracle, forty-nine soldiers came to believe in Christ. Then the military commander threw Saint Callistratus and the believing soldiers into prison. Before this, all of them were subjected to innumerable floggings.
In jail Saint Callistatus continued to preach the Word of God to the soldiers and he bolstered their spirits for martyrdom. Summoned again before the military commander, the sufferers firmly confessed their faith in Christ, after which they were bound hand and foot and thrown into the depths of a great lake behind a dam. But there their bonds broke, and with bright faces the holy martyrs stood in the water, rejoicing in their Baptism, which coincided with the act of martyrdom.
Beautiful bright crowns appeared over their heads, and all heard a voice: “Be brave, Callistratus, with your company, and come rest in the eternal habitations.” At the same time, the earth shuddered and an idol standing nearby fell down and smashed. Seeing this, another 135 soldiers also believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. The military commander, fearing a mutiny in the army, did not put them on trial, but again imprisoned Saint Callistratus with his 49 companions, where they fervently prayed and gave thanks to the Creator for giving them power to endure such sufferings.
At night the martyrs were cut to pieces with swords by order of the military commander. Their holy relics were buried by the 135 soldiers who remained alive. Later, a church was built on the spot of their sufferings, as Saint Callistatus had foretold.
Saint Sabbatius of Solovki came to the Saint Cyril of White Lake monastery in the year 1396, where he received the monastic tonsure. He there pursued asceticism for a long time, unquestioningly fulfilling all obediences. His humility, gentle love towards the brethren and his strict life distinguished the monk Sabbatius among his fellow ascetics. He soon became burdened by the attention and esteem of the brethren and laity coming to him, and having learned that on Lake Ladoga is the rocky island of Valaam, he decided to settle there.
The brethren of the Saint Cyril of White Lake monastery were very sad to be parted from their Elder. At Valaam the worldly fame also began to disquiet the humble Elder. Then the monk learned that in the north was the uninhabited island of Solovki, and he began to ask the igumen’s blessing to settle there in solitude. But the igumen and the brethren did not want to be separated from their holy Elder.
At the command of God Saint Sabbatius left the Valaam monastery by night and set off to the shores of the White Sea. When he learned from the local people that the island was two days distant, that on it were many lakes and that no one lived on the island, he was even more eager to settle there. The astonished local people asked the ascetic, whitened with grey hair, how he would live there and what he would eat. “My Master,” replied the monk, “gives the fresh strength of youth to the frail, and nourishes the hungry to satiety.”
For a certain time Saint Sabbatius remained at the chapel near the mouth of the Vyg River, in the environs of Soroka. There he encountered Saint Germanus pursuing asceticism as a hermit, and together they decided to settle upon the island. In a frail boat, praying to God, the Elders set off upon the harsh sea and after three days they reached Solovki Island.
The ascetics settled by the Sekirna hill, where they raised up a cross and built their cells. In the severe conditions of the north, the Elders hallowed the unpopulated island by their exploits. Here also the Enemy of mankind, the devil, tempted the holy Elders. A certain fisherman with his wife, moved with a sense of envy, came somehow to the island and settled near the ascetics. But the Lord did not permit the laypeople to remain near the monks. Two youths in bright garb appeared to the wife of the fisherman and struck her with rods. The fisherman took fright, quickly gathered his things and he and his wife hastened to return to his former place of residence.
Once, when Saint Germanus had gone for supplies along the Onega River, Saint Sabbatius, alone and sensing his impending end, turned to God and prayed that He would grant him to partake of the Holy Mysteries. The monk sailed for two days to the mainland and at ten versts from the Vyg River encountered the igumen Nathanael, who had come to the distant settlement to commune a sick Christian. Igumen Nathanael rejoiced at meeting the monk, fulfilled his wish and heard the account of his exploits on the island. In parting, they agreed to meet at the church along the Vyg River.
Entering the temple, the holy Elder prayerfully gave thanks to God for Communion. He then enclosed himself in a cell located near the church, and began to prepare himself for death. During this time the Novgorod merchant John came to shore and, having venerated the holy icons in church, he went to the holy Elder. Having received his blessing and guidance, he offered the monk a portion of his wealth and was saddened when he heard a refusal. To comfort the merchant, Saint Sabbatius offered to let him stay over until morning, and promised him prosperity on further journeying. The merchant John, however, hastened to disembark.
Suddenly there was an earthquake, and a storm arose on the sea. Taking fright, the merchant stayed where he was. In the morning when he entered the cell for a blessing, he saw that the Elder was already dead. He and Igumen Nathanael, who had just arrived, buried Saint Sabbatius at the chapel and wrote a manuscript of his Life. This occurred on September 27, 1435. After thirty years, the relics of Saint Sabbatius were transferred to the Transfiguration church by Saint Zosimas (April 17) and the brethren of Solovki Island. In 1566, the relics of Saints Sabbatius and Zosimas were transferred into a church, named in their honor (August 8).
The Holy Apostle Mark of the Seventy, also named John, is mentioned by the holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 12:25, 15:37-39) and also by the holy Apostle Paul in both the Epistle to the Colossians (Col 4:10) and the Epistle to Philemon (Philemon 1:23).
The holy Apostle Mark preached the Word of God together with Paul and Barnabas and was made bishop of the Phoenician city of Biblos. The holy Apostle Mark attained great boldness before God, so that his very shadow healed the sick (also January 4 and April 15).
Saint Aristarchus was one of the Seventy Apostles, whom the Lord Jesus Christ sent to proclaim the good news of the Gospel (Luke. 10:1-24).
Saint Aristarchus, a co-worker of the holy Apostle Paul, became bishop of the Syrian city of Apamea. His name is repeatedly mentioned in the Acts of the Holy Apostles (Acts 19:29, 20:4, 27:2) and in the Epistles of Saint Paul (Col. 4:10, Philemon 1:24). He accompanied Saint Paul on his travels (Acts 16:29).
Saint Aristarchus is also commemorated on April 15 with Saints Pudens and Trophimus and on January 4 with the Seventy Apostles.
The Holy Apostle Zenas of the Seventy, a disciple and co-worker with the first-ranked Apostle Paul, was called a lawyer, since he was a learned man and led juridical matters in church courts. He is mentioned in the Epistle of the holy Apostle Paul to Titus (Titus 3:13): “Help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing.” Afterwards, Saint Zenas became bishop of the city of Diospolis (or Lydda) in Palestine.
The Holy Martyr Epicharis lived in Rome during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). For her steadfast confession of Christ as Savior they subjected her to tortures: they suspended her and tore at her body with iron hooks, and then they beat at her with tin threshing rakes. The holy martyr prayed, and an angel of God struck down the torturers. Then Saint Epicharis was beheaded.
Saint Ignatius lived during the tenth century in Cappadocia, and from his youth he was dedicated by his parents to God. Upon attaining the age of maturity, he accepted monasticism and soon was ordained to the holy priesthood.
Later, Saint Ignatius was made igumen of a monastery of the Savior, called “Deep River,” close to Constantinople. Saint Ignatius concerned himself about the monastery, embellishing the churches and making an enclosure for the monastery. Saint Ignatius died in the city of Amoreia in the year 975. His relics were uncovered after a long period of time and found to be incorrupt.
Saint Flavian, Archbishop of Antioch, was a contemporary of Saint John Chrysostom. He attempted to obtain from the emperor Theodosius (379-395) a pardon for the citizens of Antioch, who had angered the emperor by destroying his statue. Saint Flavian’s death was peaceful and without illness. He is also commemorated on February 16.
Saint Aquilina (Akylina), the virgin martyr of Christ, was the daughter of pious parents who lived in the village of Zagliberi, Thessalonica in the diocese of Saint Ardamerios.
One day her father quarreled with a Turkish neighbor (for Turks and Christians lived together in that village), and struck the Turk, killing him. The authorities seized him and brought him to the pasha of Thessalonica to be executed for his crime. Fearing death, the unfortunate man converted to Islam in order to save his life. Saint Aquilina was still a babe at her mother’s breast when this happened. The saint’s mother remained a Christian, and she encouraged her daughter to adhere to the Christian Faith, and not to deny Christ.
After some time had passed, the Turks pressured Aquilina’s father to make her become a Moslem, too. He said, “Do not worry about my daughter, I’ll see to her. I will force her to convert to Islam in due course.”
When Saint Aquilina was eighteen, the Turks urged her father to make his daughter convert to their faith. He said to her, “The other Turks tell me that you must become a Moslem sooner or later. Do it one day sooner so that they will stop bothering me. “
She replied with great courage, “I will never deny the Lord Jesus Christ, Who died on the Cross for our sake. I am prepared to endure tortures, and even death, for love of my Christ.”
Seeing that she would not change her mind, her father went to the Turks and said, “I am not able to persuade my daughter to become a Moslem, so you may do as you wish with her.”
Hearing this, the Turks became angry, and sent servants to arrest the girl. When the saint’s mother saw them seize her daughter, she encouraged her to remain firm in confessing Christ, and to be brave in the face of the torments she was about to endure.
Aquilina replied, “That is my intention, Mother. May God help me. Pray for me.”
Then they said farewell with many tears and laments. Servants tied Aquilina with ropes and brought her to the judge. Her mother followed them, but the servants shut the door in her face and left her standing in the courtyard. Saint Aquilina was taken inside to appear before the judge, and her mother returned home to await the outcome.
The judge asked her, “Will you become a Moslem, you fool?”
She replied, “No, I will never deny my Faith or my Master Christ.”
Hearing these things, the judge became angry and ordered the saint to be stripped of her clothes, leaving her in her chemise. Then he ordered them to tie her to a pillar and to beat her with sticks, and it was done. Two servants beat her for a long time, but Saint Aquilina endured her sufferings with great courage.
Then once again the saint was brought before the judge and the other Turks. They began to flatter her, promising her many things. They even offered her gifts, if only she would deny her Christian Faith, but she regarded earthly riches as worthless. A prominent man among them, having more boldness than the others, said to her, “Become a Moslem, Aquilina, and I will marry you to my son.”
The martyr of Christ replied, “May the devil take you and your son.”
When the Turks heard this, they were enraged and tied the saint up as before, beating her for a long time. Then she was untied and questioned for a third time.
Since Aquilina had received so many lashes, her chemise was torn to shreds, and it no longer covered her. The judge said, “You fool! Aren’t you ashamed to appear naked before so many people? Become a Moslem, or I’ll break your bones one by one.”
The holy virgin replied, “What could I possibly want with your faith? Why should I deny Christ?”
The Turks were furious, and this time they beat the saint so mercilessly that they left her for dead. The earth was saturated with her blood, and pieces of her flesh fell to the ground. Finally, they untied her and gave her to a certain Christian who happened to be at that place, and he brought her to her mother’s house.
When her mother saw that her daughter was almost dead, she embraced her and asked, “What have you done, my child?”
The martyr opened her eyes with difficulty and said, “Behold, I have preserved the confession of my Faith, just as we agreed.”
While she was speaking to her mother, Saint Aquilina gave her pure soul into God’s hands and received the imperishable crown of martyrdom on September 27, 1764.
On the way to the cemetery, Saint Aquilina’s holy relics gave forth a wondrous fragrance which filled the entire road. That night a heavenly light shone upon her tomb like a brilliant star, and the Christians who witnessed this glorified God.
Saint Anthimus was born in Georgia, and his parents were called John and Mary. The child received the name Andrew in Baptism, and his parents raised him as an Orthodox Christian.
Andrew was captured by Turks who invaded Georgia when he was young, and he was one of many who were made slaves in Constantinople. There he learned to speak Greek, Arabic, and Turkish, and also became skilled in woodcarving, embroidery, and painting. After a few years as a slave, Andrew escaped and fled to the Ecumenical Patriarchate for refuge.
Around 1690, Andrew was invited to Wallachia by Prince Constantine Brancoveanu (August 16), who had heard of his talents. After a year or so, he became a monk and received the name Anthimus. Later, he was ordained to the holy priesthood. He was placed in charge of the royal print shop in Bucharest, and later set up a printing house in the Snagov Monastery.The monastery printed sixty-three books in Romanian, Greek, Arabic, and Georgian. Saint Anthimus was the author of thirty-eight of them. He was chosen to be the igumen of Snagov in 1696.
The saint was consecrated as Bishop of Rimnicu-Vilcea in 1705, and three years later he was made Metropolitan of Wallachia. As Metropolitan, he established schools for poor children, and built churches and monasteries. Since he was a woodcarver, he used his talent to beautify many churches.
Saint Anthimus was a zealous pastor who satisfied his flock’s hunger for spiritual knowledge. Preaching in the Romanian language, he taught them the saving truths of Orthodoxy, and offered words of encouragement and consolation. His edifying books and sermons are part of the spiritual legacy of the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Metropolitan Anthimus was arrested by the Turks in 1716 and sentenced to be exiled at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai, but he never arrived at his destination. On September 27, 1716, he was killed by the soldiers who were escorting him. They cut his body into little pieces and threw them into the Tungia River, south of the Danube. Thus, the faithful servant of Christ received the crown of martyrdom.
Saint Anthimus was a true shepherd of his flock, and a father to his clergy. He was glorified by the Orthodox Church of Romania in 1992.