FRIDAY OF THE 3RD WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Sergius & Bacchus the Great Martyrs of Syria, Polychronios the Martyr, Julian the Presbyter & Caesarius the Deacon, John the Hermit of Crete, Jonah of Manchuria
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 4:17-25
Brethren, this I affirm and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart; they have become callous and have given themselves up to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of uncleanness. You did not so learn Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus. Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth.
The Lord said, “To what shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the market place and calling to one another, ‘We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus in Syria
The Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus in Syria were appointed to high positions in the army by the emperor Maximian (284-305), who did not know that they were Christians. Envious people informed Maximian that his two trusted counsellors did not honor the pagan gods. This was considered to be a crime against the state.
The emperor, wanting to convince himself of the truth of the accusation, ordered Sergius and Bacchus to offer sacrifice to the idols, but they replied that they honored the One God and worshiped only Him.
Maximian commanded that the martyrs be stripped of the insignia of military rank (their belts, gold pendants, and rings), and then dressed them in feminine clothing. They were led through the city with an iron chains around their necks, and the people mocked them. Then he summoned Sergius and Bacchus to him again and in a friendly manner advised them not to be swayed by Christian fables, but to return to the Roman gods. The saints refuted the emperor’s words, and demonstrated the folly of worshiping the pagan gods.
The emperor commanded that they be sent to the governor of the eastern part of Syria, Antiochus, a fierce hater of Christians. Antiochus had received his position with the help of Sergius and Bacchus. “My fathers and benefactors!” he said. “Have pity on yourselves, and also on me. I do not want to condemn my benefactors to cruel tortures.” The holy martyrs replied, “For us life is Christ, and to die is gain.” The enraged Antiochus ordered Bacchus to be mercilessly beaten, and the holy martyr surrendered his soul to the Lord. They shod Sergius with iron sandals with nails in their soles and sent him to another city, where he was beheaded with the sword.
Venerable Sergius, Abbot of Nurma, disciple of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh, Vologda
Saint Sergius, the Wonderworker of Nurma, was from Greece, and traveled from Mount Athos in order to consult with Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25), and to ask his advice on spiritual matters, even though he himself was already an experienced Elder.
After spending some time with the great man as his disciple, Saint Sergius of Athos went to the Vologda region near the Nurma River, a tributary of the Obnora River, in order to live in solitude. Twice, he was attacked by thieves. The first time they beat him nearly to death. The second time, however, they were driven away by the power of his prayers.
Soon, monks and laymen came to join him, attracted by the holiness of his life. When forty ascetics had joined Saint Sergius in the wilderness, he established a cenobitic monastery and built a church dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Lord.
One day, Saint Sergius encountered Saint Paul of Obnora (January 10) in the forest near his monastery, and saw birds perched on his head and shoulders, feeding from his hands. A bear stood nearby, waiting patiently to be fed. Foxes, rabbits, and other animals ran about, and were not afraid of the bear. All these creatures obeyed Saint Paul, just as they had obeyed Adam in Paradise.
The two Saints became very close and counseled one another in their spiritual endeavors. Saint Paul chose Saint Sergius, who had been ordained to the holy priesthood on Mount Athos, as his Spiritual Father. Saint Paul would confess his thoughts to the Elder, and also received Holy Communion from him. They visited one another frequently, strengthening each other in their advanced ascetical endeavors. Saint Sergius also disclosed to Saint Paul what was in his heart, for they helped each other to endure the tribulations of life in the wilderness.
Whenever Saint Sergius would leave for his own cell three miles away, Saint Paul accompanied him for two thirds of the way. Later, a chapel was built on the spot where the two Saints parted.
Saint Paul heard church bells ringing one night as he was praying in the forest by the Nurma River, and he also beheld a bright light. This occurred again on another occasion. Then the phenomenon was repeated more and more often. To the Elder's astonishment, on week days he would hear the ringing of small bells, while on Feast Days, there would be a louder pealing. The greater the Feast Day, the more triumphant the ringing became.
For a long time, Saint Paul ignored the ringing of the bells, considering it to be a delusion and a trick of the devil, so he did not mention it to anyone. Then something happened which convinced him that the opposite was true. As the Feast of Pascha came, he began an all-night Vigil, praying most fervently, and with many tears. Suddenly, just at midnight, he heard a triumphant ringing. Opening the window of his cell, the Elder looked downhill toward the Nurma. There he saw an extraordinary light shining in the forest beyond the river on the very spot where the Monastery church of the Holy Trinity would stand. Saint Paul felt peace and an inexpressible joy in his heart, and spent the entire night glorifying God and His Most Holy Mother. When he told the brethren of this vision, they all confirmed his opinion and urged him to build a church and a monastery at that place. He realized that after such a vision it would be unforgivable for him to hesitate in fulfilling God's will, so he decided to seek the advice of his Elder, Saint Sergius. Regarding this as a revelation from God. Saint Sergius prophesied that someday a monastery would be established there, and that many would find salvation in it. He urged Saint Paul to build a church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. This was the last meeting of the two Elders in this world.
Weighed down by advanced age, Saint Sergius began to prepare for his departure from this life, which occurred on October 7, 1412. The Church-wide veneration of Saint Sergius of Nurma began in 1546.
Saint Sergius is also commemorated on the Second Sunday after Pentecost (Synaxis of the Saints of Mount Athos), on the Third Sunday after Pentecost (Synaxis of the Saints of Vologda), and on July 6 (Synaxis of The Saints of Radonezh).
Uncovering of the relics of Venerable Martinian, Abbot of Belozersk
Saint Martinian of White Lake, in the world Michael, was born in the year 1370 in the village of Berezniko, not far from the Cyrilov monastery. At age thirteen he left his parents and went secretly to Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9), whom many described as a great ascetic.
The young Martinian began zealously to imitate his teacher, with whom he dwelt in complete obedience. At the monastery he studied reading and writing, and with the blessing of Saint Cyril, he occupied himself with the copying of books. In time Martinian was ordained deacon and then hieromonk.
After the death of Saint Cyril (+ 1427), Martinian withdrew to a deserted island on Lake Vozha. Several monks gradually gathered around him. Saint Martinian established for them the church of the Transfiguration of the Lord and introduced a general Rule for the inhabitants. Yielding to the persistent requests of the brethren of Therapon monastery, he consented to become igumen of the monastery and brought it into an improved condition.
Saint Martinian gave spiritual support to Great Prince Basil in the difficulties of his time, when his first-cousin Demetrius Shemyaka illicitly sought the Moscow throne. He was always an advocate of truth and justice. Afterwards, upon the entreaty of the Great Prince, the saint accepted the governance of the monastery of Saint Sergius of Radonezh.
In 1455, Saint Martinian returned to the Therapon monastery. In his last years he was grievously ill and not able to walk, so the brethren carried him to church. He died at age 85. His relics were uncovered in the year 1514, and this event is celebrated on October 7.
Martyrs Julian the Presbyter and Caesarius the Deacon at Terracina
The Martyr Julian the Presbyter suffered martyrdom for Christ with Saint Caesarius the Deacon at Terracina, Italy in the first century.
Saint Caesarius was thrown into prison for insulting the pagan gods. They later took him in bonds to the temple of Apollo, but before they got him near the pagan temple it collapsed, killing the pagan priests and many of the people.
About the same time the idolaters arrested the Christian priest Julian. At the emperor’s orders, the holy martyrs were cast into the sea, but their bodies floated to the surface, and Christians buried the sufferers.
The relics of Saint Caesarius are kept in Rome.
Martyr Pelagia of Tarsus
Saint Pelagia of Tarsus in Cilicia (southeastern Asia Minor) lived in the third century, during the reign of Diocletian (284-305), and was the daughter of illustrious pagans. When she heard about Jesus Christ from her Christian friends, she believed in Him and desired to preserve her virginity, dedicating her whole life to the Lord.
Emperor Diocletian’s heir (a boy he adopted), saw the maiden Pelagia, was captivated by her beauty and wanted her to be his wife. The holy virgin told the youth that she was betrothed to Christ the Immortal Bridegroom, and had renounced earthly marriage.
Pelagia’s reply greatly angered the young man, but he decided to leave her in peace for awhile, hoping that she would change her mind. At the same time, Pelagia convinced her mother to let her visit the nurse who had raised her in childhood. She secretly hoped to find Bishop Linus of Tarsus, who had fled to a mountain during a persecution against Christians, and to be baptized by him. She had seen the face of Bishop Linus in a dream, which made a profound impression upon her. The holy bishop told her to be baptized. Saint Pelagia traveled in a chariot to visit her nurse, dressed in rich clothes and accompanied by a whole retinue of servants, as her mother wished.
Along the way Saint Pelagia, by the grace of God, met Bishop Linus. Pelagia immediately recognized the bishop who had appeared to her in the dream. She fell at his feet, requesting Baptism. At the bishop’s prayer a spring of water flowed from the ground.
Bishop Linus made the Sign of the Cross over Saint Pelagia, and during the Mystery of Baptism, angels appeared and covered the chosen one of God with a bright mantle. After giving the pious virgin Holy Communion, Bishop Linus offered a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord with her, and then sent her to continue her journey. She then exchanged her expensive clothing for a simple white garment, and distributed her possessions to the poor. Returning to her servants, Saint Pelagia told them about Christ, and many of them were converted and believed.
She tried to convert her own mother to Christ, but the obdurate woman sent a message to Diocletian’s son that Pelagia was a Christian and did not wish to be his wife. The youth realized that Pelagia was lost to him, and he fell upon his sword in his despair. Pelagia’s mother feared the emperor’s wrath, so she tied her daughter up and led her to Diocletian’s court as a Christian who was also responsible for the death of the heir to the throne. The emperor was captivated by the unusual beauty of the virgin and tried to turn her from her faith in Christ, promising her every earthly blessing if she would become his wife.
The holy virgin refused the emperor’s offer with contempt and said, “You are insane, Emperor, saying such things to me. I will not do your bidding, and I loathe your vile marriage, since I have Christ, the King of Heaven, as my Bridegroom. I do not desire your worldly crowns which last only a short while. The Lord in His heavenly Kingdom has prepared three imperishable crowns for me. The first is for faith, since I have believed in the true God with all my heart; the second is for purity, because I have dedicated my virginity to Him; the third is for martyrdom, since I want to accept every suffering for Him and offer up my soul because of my love for Him.”
Diocletian sentenced Pelagia to be burned in a red-hot bronze bull. Not permitting the executioners to touch her body, the holy martyr signed herself with the Sign of the Cross, and went into the brazen bull and her flesh melted like myrrh, filling the whole city with fragrance. Saint Pelagia’s bones remained unharmed and were removed by the pagans to a place outside the city. Four lions then came out of the wilderness and sat around the bones letting neither bird nor wild beast get at them. The lions protected the relics of the saint until Bishop Linus came to that place. He gathered them up and buried them with honor. Later, a church was built over her holy relics.
The Service to the holy Virgin Martyr Pelagia of Tarsus says that she was “deemed worthy of most strange and divine visions.” She is also commemorated on May 4.
Martyr Polychronius the Presbyter
The Martyr Polychronius the Presbyter was the son of a landowner, raised with a love for work and in Christian piety. Reaching maturity, Polychronius left his parents’ home for Constantinople and began to work for one of the rich vineyard owners.
The vineyard owner was amazed at the youth’s love for toil and the ascetic life. For his fine work the saint received much money, with which he built a church. Soon he was ordained to the priesthood. According to Tradition, Saint Polychronius participated in the First Ecumenical Council. He was martyred by Arian heretics at the altar of the church (4th Century).
99 Martyred Fathers of Crete
These 99 martyrs were from Crete. The most prominent among them was called John, and he was known as a wonderworker. He knelt so much in prayer that he was not able to walk, and had to move about on his knees.
One day a woodsman saw him going about in this way. Thinking that it was some wild animal, he shot the saint with an arrow. It is said that the other ninety-eight Fathers also died on that same day.
It is not known when these holy ascetics lived.
“Tenderness” Icon of the Mother of God
The “Tenderness” Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God was found in the monastery of the caves in 1521, and was transferred to the city of Pskov by the pious Christians Basil and Theodore. The Icon is particularly renowned for the deliverance of Pskov and the Pskov Caves monastery from the army of Stephen Bathory (1533-1586) in 1581. It is commemorated on May 21, June 23, August 26, October 7, and on the Seventh Sunday of Pascha.
The Tenderness Icon of the Mother of God is of the Eleousa (Umilenie) type, and is regarded as the patroness of the city of Pskov.
The October 7 commemoration was established in thanksgiving for the deliverance of Pskov from the invading army of Napoleon in 1812.
Venerable Joseph the Elder and Wonderworker of Khevi, Georgia
Little is known about the life of Saint Joseph of Khevi. The Church is certain only that he was a native of Khevi (in northern Georgia) and served as a priest in that village. In addition to being great warriors, the people of Khevi have throughout history been remarkably steadfast in the Christian Faith. The churches and monasteries in Khevi are extraordinary in both beauty and inaccessibility. They were deliberately built in mountainous places, as if reaching them should demand the greatest of zeal.
The most important ornament and symbol of Khevi is the ice that perpetually caps the peak of Mt. Kazbegi. On the slope of this mountain stands Trinity Monastery, where at one time Saint Nino’s cross was preserved (it is presently kept in Tbilisi, in the northern section of the iconostasis at Sioni Cathedral).
Located above Trinity Monastery, on the ice-covered, vertical cliff of Mt. Kazbegi, is a cave hermitage at 13,450 feet, known as the Bethlehem Cave. It is possible to reach this hermitage only by climbing chains let down from its height. According to the chronicle Life of Kartli, this cave has throughout history been used to store sacred objects and treasures of the Church.
The historian David Batonishvili records that Saint Joseph was especially known for his love of holy objects, for keeping the strictest of fasts, and for his outstanding virtues. He climbed to the Bethlehem Hermitage and returned with a piece of the tent of the patriarch Abraham, which he presented to King Erekle. Georgian tradition relates that both the tent of the Patriarch Abraham and the manger of Christ were kept in the Bethlehem Cave for many centuries. Having attained the heights of clairvoyance and miracle-working, Saint Joseph reposed peacefully in the year 1763.