FRIDAY OF THE 4TH WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Martyrs Nazarius, Gervasius, Protasius, & Celsus, Cosmas the Hagiopolite, Praised Ignatius, Archbishop of Methymna, Righteous Paraskeve of Serbia
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 6:18-24
Brethren, pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
Now that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicos the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.
Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love undying. Amen.
At that time, the twelve disciples came to Jesus and said to him, “Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place.” But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish — unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.” And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him.
Martyrs Gervasius, Nazarius, Protasius, and Celsus of Milan
The Holy Martyrs Nazarius, Gervasius, Protasius and Celsus of Milan suffered during the reign of the emperor Nero (54-68). Saint Nazarius (son of the Christian Perpetua and the Jew Africanus) was born at Rome and was baptized by Bishop Linus. From his youth Nazarius decided to devote his life to preaching Christ and to aid wandering Christians. With this intent he left Rome and arrived in Mediolanum (Milan).
Saints Protasius and Gervasius were twin brothers from Mediolanum (Milan), the sons of wealthy Roman citizens, Vitalius and Valeria. When they received their inheritance from their parents, they distributed the money to the poor, freed their slaves, and occupied themselves with fasting and prayer. The pagans locked them up in prison because they were Christians. Saint Nazarius met Protasius and Gervasius when he was visiting Christians in the Mediolanum prison. He so loved the twins that he wanted to suffer and die with them. The ruler heard that he was visiting the prisoners, so he had Saint Nazarius beaten with rods, then driven from the city.
Saint Nazarius proceeded to Gaul (modern France), and there he successfully preached Christianity and converted many pagans. In the city of Kimel he baptized Celsus, the son of a Christian woman who entrusted her child to the saint. Nazarius raised the boy in piety, and acquired a faithful disciple and coworker in his missionary labors.
The pagans threw the saints to wild animals to be eaten, but the beasts would not touch them. Afterwards, they tried to drown the martyrs in the sea, but they walked upon the water as if on dry land. The soldiers who carried out the orders were so amazed that they themselves accepted Christianity and released the holy martyrs.
Saints Nazarius and Celsus went to Milan and visited Gervasius and Protasius in prison. For this, they were brought before Nero, who ordered that Saints Nazarius and Celsus be beheaded. Soon after this the holy brothers Gervasius and Protasius were also executed. The relics of all four martyrs were stolen by a Christian named Philip, and were buried in his house.
Many years later, during the reign of the holy Emperor Theodosius (408-450), Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (December 7), discovered the relics of Saints Gervasius and Protasius through a revelation from God.
In the reign of Arcadius and Honorius, Saint Ambrose also discovered the relics of Saints Nazarius and Celsus. The holy relics, glorified by many healings, were solemnly transferred to the Milan cathedral.
Venerable Paraskevḗ (Petka) of Serbia
Saint Paraskevḗ the New was born into a pious family, living during the eleventh century in the village of Epivato, between Silistra and Constantinople. Her older brother Euthymius became a monk, and later he was consecrated as Bishop of Matidia. One day, while attending the divine services, the words of the Lord pierced her heart like an arrow, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself” (Mt. 16:24). From that time she began to distribute her clothing to the needy, for which reason she endured much grief from her family.
Upon the death of her parents, the saint was tonsured into monasticism at the age of fifteen. She withdrew to the Jordanian desert where she lived the ascetic life until she reached the age of twenty-five. An angel of the Lord ordered her to return to her homeland, so she stayed at Epivato for two years.
Saint Paraskevḗ departed to the Lord at the age of twenty-seven, and was buried near the sea. Because of the many miracles which took place at her grave, her relics were uncovered and found to be incorrupt. They were placed in the church of the Holy Apostles at Epivato, where they remained for about 175 years.
Saint Paraskevḗ’s relics were moved to Trnovo, Bulgaria in 1223 and placed in the cathedral. Patriarch Euthymius wrote her Life and established the day of her commemoration as October 14. The Turks occupied Bulgaria in 1391, and her relics were given to Mircea the Elder, Prince of the Romanian Land (one of the districts of Romania). In 1394 the relics were given to Princess Angelina of Serbia (July 30), who brought them to Belgrade. For 120 years Saint Paraskevḗ’s relics rested in Constantinople in the patriarchal cathedral.
On June 13, 1641, her incorrupt relics were transferred to the monastery of the Three Hierarchs at Jassy in Rumania, where many healings took place. On December 26, 1888, after being rescued from a fire, Saint Paraskevḗ’s relics were moved again. This time they were placed in the new cathedral at Jassy, where they remain until the present day.
Venerable Nicholas Sviatosha Prince of Chernigov, and Wonderworker of the Kiev Near Caves
Saint Nicholas Sviatosha, Prince of Chernigov, and Wonderworker of the Kiev Caves, Near Caves, was a great-grandson of Great Prince Yaroslav the Wise and son of Prince David Svyatoslavich of Chernigov (+ 1123). Nicholas was the Prince of Lutsk, and he had a wife and children (his daughter was later married to the Novgorod prince Saint Vsevolod-Gabriel (February 11).
On February 17, 1106 the holy prince left his family and was tonsured at the Kiev Caves monastery. Nicholas Sviatosha carried out his obediences with great humility. For three years he worked in the kitchen, for which he chopped wood and carried water. For the next three years, he was gatekeeper at the monastery. The saint had a garden around his cell. Out of his own means he built at the monastery the temple of the Holy Trinity and the infirmary church in the name of Saint Nicholas, his patron saint.
Saint Nicholas was the first of the Russian princes to accept monasticism, patiently enduring the reproaches of his brothers for his decision to lead a life of humble obedience. The saint’s doctor, Peter, pointed out to the royal ascetic that such exploits of obedience had injured his health. But suddenly the doctor himself fell sick, and was healed only by the prayer of Saint Nicholas. Then Peter himself was tonsured.
After he had progressed through various obediences, Saint Nicholas took upon himself the vow of silence. When the saint received money, he used it to beautify the church and to procure books (because he loved reading), or he distributed it to the poor. Saint Nicholas was a zealous peacemaker; in 1142 he reconciled the Prince of Chernigov with the Great Prince Vsevolod.
Soon after the death of the saint, his brother Prince Izyaslav fell grievously ill. The igumen of the monastery sent the sick man the saint’s hairshirt. Izyaslav put it on and was healed.
Hieromartyr Silvanus of Gaza
The Holy Hieromartyr Silvanus of Gaza was a native of the city of Gaza. He was first a soldier, then a priest. He was falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to labor in the copper mines. In spite of many tribulations, the saint did not renounce Christ. In his old age, he was beheaded together with forty other Christians.
Icon of the Mother of God of Yakhrom
The Yakhrom Icon of the Mother of God appeared to the holy youth Cosmas (February 18), while he was accompanying his master, a sick landowner. Cosmas had stopped at the bank of the Yakhrom River, not far from Vladimir, and the sick man fell asleep. Cosmas suddenly saw a bright light coming from a nearby tree, and heard a voice, “Attend and understand the words of life. Live a God-pleasing life and seek the joy of the righteous, and then you will delight in eternal blessings.” The light had come from an icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
Saint Cosmas (February 18) took the icon and placed it on his master, who was immediately healed. After this, Cosmas’s term of servitude expired, so he went to the Kiev Caves monastery. After he was tonsured, he amazed even the experienced monks by his own spiritual efforts.
Years later, Saint Cosmas was told by an angel to return to the place where he had found the icon. He took the wonderworking icon with him to the bank of the Yakhrom River where he had found the icon. At once, the place was again filled with light. Saint Cosmas built a monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Mother of God, and placed the Yakhrom Icon within it.