THURSDAY OF THE 6TH WEEK
Nestor the Martyr of Thessaloniki, Kyriakos, Patriarch of Constantinople, Procla, wife of Pontius Pilate
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS 3:1-8
Brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not irksome to me, and is safe for you. Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ.
At that time, Jesus was casting out a demon that was dumb; when the demon had gone out, the dumb man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, "He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons"; while others, to test him, sought from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace; but when one stronger than he assails him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoil. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
The holy Martyr Nestor was very young in age, handsome in appearance, and he was known to the holy Great Martyr Demetrios (October 26), for he had instructed Nestor in the faith.
The Emperor was visiting Thessaloniki, and he built a high platform in the midst of the city so that a gigantic barbarian named Lyaios could wrestle there and be seen by everyone. Beneath the platform many spears and other sharp weapons were placed pointing upward. When Lyaios defeated his opponents, he threw them down onto the spears and they died. Many Christians were forced to fight Lyaios, and were killed. When Nestor saw how Emperor Maximian rejoiced over the victories of his champion, he disdained his pride. Seeing the miracles of Saint Demetrios, however, he took courage and went to the prison where the holy Martyr was confined, and fell at his feet.
“Pray for me, O Servant of God Demetrios,” he said, “that by your prayers, God may help me to beat Lyaios, and put an end to him who brings reproach upon the Christians.”
The Saint, after sealing Nestor with the Sign of the Cross, told him that he would prevail over Lyaios, and then suffer for Christ. Nestor mounted the platform without fear and exclaimed: “Help me, O God of Demetrios.” After he defeated Lyaios, he hurled him down onto the spears, where he gave up his wretched soul.
Maximian became enraged and ordered that both Nestor and Demetrios should be put to death. Saint Demetrios was stabbed with spears, and Saint Nestor was beheaded. Thus, by his example Saint Nestor teaches us that in every human challenge we must say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do to me.” (Psalm 117/118:6, Hebrews 13:6).
Saint Nestor the Chronicler, of the Kiev Caves, Near Caves was born at Kiev in 1050. He came to Saint Theodosius (May 3) as a young man, and became a novice. Saint Nestor took monastic tonsure under the successor to Saint Theodosius, the igumen Stephen, and under him was ordained a hierodeacon.
Concerning his lofty spiritual life it says that, with a number of other monastic Fathers he participated in the casting out of a devil from Nikḗtas the Hermit (January 31), who had become fascinated by the Hebrew wisdom of the Old Testament. Saint Nestor deeply appreciated true knowledge, along with humility and penitence. “Great is the benefit of book learning,” he said, “for books point out and teach us the way to repentance, since from the words of books we discover wisdom and temperance. This is the stream, watering the universe, from which springs wisdom. In books is a boundless depth, by them we are comforted in sorrows, and they are a bridle for moderation. If you enter diligently into the books of wisdom, then you shall discover great benefit for your soul. Therefore, the one who reads books converses with God or the saints.”
In the monastery Saint Nestor had the obedience of being the chronicler. In the 1080s he wrote the “Account about the Life and Martyrdom of the Blessed Passion Bearers Boris and Gleb” in connection with the transfer of the relics of the saints to Vyshgorod in the year 1072 (May 2). In the 1080s Saint Nestor also compiled the Life of the Monk Theodosius of the Kiev Caves. And in 1091, on the eve of the patronal Feast of the Kiev Caves Monastery, he was entrusted by Igumen John to dig up the holy relics of Saint Theodosius (August 14) for transfer to the church.
The chief work in the life of Saint Nestor was compiling in the years 1112-1113 The Russian Primary Chronicle. “Here is the account of years past, how the Russian land came to be, who was the first prince at Kiev and how the Russian land is arrayed.” The very first line written by Saint Nestor set forth his purpose. Saint Nestor used an extraordinarily wide circle of sources: prior Russian chronicles and sayings, monastery records, the Byzantine Chronicles of John Malalos and George Amartolos, various historical collections, the accounts of the boyar-Elder Ivan Vyshatich and of tradesmen and soldiers, of journeymen and of those who knew. He drew them together with a unified and strict ecclesiastical point of view. This permitted him to write his history of Russia as an inclusive part of world history, the history of the salvation of the human race.
The monk-patriot describes the history of the Russian Church in its significant moments. He speaks about the first mention of the Russian nation in historical sources in the year 866, in the time of Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople. He tells of the creation of the Slavonic alphabet and writing by Saints Cyril and Methodius; and of the Baptism of Saint Olga at Constantinople. The Chronicle of Saint Nestor has preserved for us an account of the first Orthodox church in Kiev (under the year 945), and of the holy Varangian Martyrs (under the year 983), of the “testing of the faiths” by Saint Vladimir (in 986) and the Baptism of Rus (in 988).
We are indebted to the first Russian Church historian for details about the first Metropolitans of the Russian Church, about the emergence of the Kiev Caves monastery, and about its founders and ascetics. The times in which Saint Nestor lived were not easy for the Russian land and the Russian Church. Rus lay torn asunder by princely feuds; the Polovetsian nomads of the steppes lay waste to both city and village with plundering raids. They led many Russian people into slavery, and burned churches and monasteries. Saint Nestor was an eyewitness to the devastation of the Kiev Caves monastery in the year 1096. In the Chronicle a theologically thought out patriotic history is presented. The spiritual depth, historical fidelity and patriotism of the The Russian Primary Chronicle establish it in the ranks of the significant creations of world literature.
Saint Nestor died around the year 1114, having left to the other monastic chroniclers of the Kiev Caves the continuation of his great work. His successors in the writing of the Chronicles were: Igumen Sylvester, who added contemporary accounts to the The Russian Primary Chronicle; Igumen Moses Vydubitsky brought it up to the year 1200; and finally, Igumen Laurence, who in the year 1377 wrote the most ancient of the surviving manuscripts that preserve the Chronicle of Saint Nestor (this copy is known as the “Lavrentian Chronicle”). The hagiographic tradition of the Kiev Caves ascetics was continued by Saint Simon, Bishop of Vladimir (May 10), the compiler of the Kiev Caves Paterikon. Narrating the events connected with the lives of the holy saints of God, Saint Simon often quotes, among other sources, from the Chronicle of Saint Nestor.
Saint Nestor was buried in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony. The Church also honors his memory in the Synaxis of the holy Fathers of the Near Caves commemorated September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent when is celebrated the Synaxis of all the Fathers of the Kiev Caves. His works have been published many times, including in English as “The Russian Primary Chronicle”.
The Uncovering of the relics of Saint Andrew, Prince of Smolensk at Pereslavl occurred in the year 1539 through the involvement of Saint Daniel of Pereslavl (April 7).
The holy Prince Andrew was the son of the Smolensk prince Theodore Fominsky. While still in his youth, he was grieved by the disputes of his brothers, and he left his native city going as a simple wanderer to Pereslavl Zalessk. In humility and meekness he spent thirty years as church warden at the church of Saint Nicholas, near which he is buried. After his death they discovered a princely ring, a gold chain and an inscription with the words, “I am Andrew, one of the Smolensk princes.”
Saints Capitolina (Καπιτωλίνη) and Eroteis (Ερωτηίς) lived during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, when Zilikinthios (Ζιλικίνθιος) was the magistrate of Cappadocia (ca. 304).
Capitolina was a noble and wealthy lady, but she had no regard for riches. Therefore, she divided all of her property among the poor, and freed her slaves. When she was arrested as a Christian and appeared before Zilikinthios, she confessed her faith in Christ. He ordered her to be thrown into a nearby prison, and she was beheaded the next day.
Eroteis who was Capitolina’s servant, picked up some stones and threw them at the magistrate. Outraged, he commanded his guards to beat her mercilessly with sticks. By the grace of Christ, however, the Saint remained unharmed. Then he ordered them to behead her with a sword. In this manner, both of these Saints, the lady and her servant, died by the sword, thereby winning imperishable crowns of glory from Christ.
Saint Matthew is the only Evangelist to mention Pilate’s wife, who told him “Have nothing to do with that just man, because I have suffered many things in a dream today because of him” (Matthew 27:19). She is not identified by name, but the author of the apocryphal Acts of Paul says that she received Baptism from the Apostle of the Gentiles. In the apocryphal Gospel of Νikόdēmos she is called Procla, or Procula. Beginning in the late fourth, or early fifth century, she is known as Claudia Procula.
Pontius Pilate would not free Christ, because he was afraid of the Jews, After her husband’s death, Claudia Procula is said to have embraced Christianity. After living her life in the utmost goodness and piety, she surrendered her soul in peace. There are other accounts, however, which say that she was a martyr.
Saints Mark, Soterikhos, and Valentine were from Asia. They were arrested by the idolaters in the year 304 because they were Christians. After enduring many tortures, they were dragged over sharp stones until they were dead. Later, their holy relics were brought to the island of Thasos, which lies between Thrace and the Athonite peninsula.
These holy martyrs are commemorated on October 24 in Greek usage.
The main commemoration of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “of the Sign” is November 27.
Saint Demetrius of Basarabov in Bulgaria lived in the wilderness as an ascetic near the city of Ruschuk, Bulgaria. He died in 1685.
On July 8, 1779 his relics were transferred to Bucharest.
Saint Nestor (not the Chronicler) of the Kiev Caves, is to be distinguished from Saint Nestor the Chronicler, who lived as an ascetic in the Far Caves. His memory is celebrated October 27 it seems, because he was named for the Saint Nestor of Thessalonica.
The name of Saint Nestor (not the Chronicler) is mentioned in the General Service to the Monastics of the Far Caves: “The Word of God, understood by man, instructed you not by written wisdom, O holy Nestor, but from on high; you beheld it through the prayers of the angel, and you foresaw your death. May we also be made partakers with you, we pray, in honoring your memory.” His memory is celebrated also on August 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
The holy hierarch Alexander (Alexi Okropiridze in the world) was born in 1824, in the village of Disevi in the Gori district, to the family of the village priest. Growing up around the church, he received his primary education at Gori Theological School and later continued his education at Tbilisi Seminary.
Having completed his course of study at the seminary in 1845, he was tonsured a monk at the Tbilisi Monastery of the Transfiguration and given the new name Alexander. From Tbilisi the young monk Alexander traveled to the theological academy in Kazan to continue his studies. He graduated with honors and returned to his homeland. Hieromonk Alexander taught the Holy Scriptures, Latin, moral theology, and archaeology at Tbilisi Seminary until July 27, 1851.
Then, at the order of the Holy Synod, he was appointed dean of the theological school in Abkhazeti on September 21, 1851. He was also entrusted with overseeing monastic life in the Abkhazeti diocese and with supervising the instruction at Kutaisi Theological School.
Alexander considered a broadening of the network of theological institutions most essential to the strengthening of the Christian Faith in his country. From the very beginning of his labors in Abkhazeti, he exerted an enormous amount of effort to improve the Ilori Theological School in Ochamchire. At first Alexander was active as a pedagogue, then from February 29, 1856, as an archimandrite, and from March 4, 1862, as a bishop. He was as beloved throughout all of Georgian society as he was by the local population, and many called him the “Second Apostle to Abkhazeti.”
Alexander’s pastoral activity coincided with a difficult period in Georgian history. The divine services were no longer being celebrated in the Georgian language, and as a result many of the people began to drift away from the Church. Many Georgian churches and monasteries, considered cultural and academic centers from ancient times, were deserted. (By this time Georgia had been incorporated into the Russian Empire, and the tsarist government had initiated a policy of forced Russification.) The Georgian language was no longer being taught in schools, and the poorest families could not afford to educate their children.
The learned and erudite Bishop Alexander considered the revival of spiritual life and learning, firmly rooted in the national consciousness, the principal means by which to reinvigorate the national spirit and encourage cultural advance.
Alexander’s efforts on behalf of the revival of the churches and monasteries in Abkhazeti are, among his many labors, most worthy of note. Through his efforts alone two churches were restored in Sokhumi. Outside of Abkhazeti, Alexander renewed the magnificent monasteries of Shio-Mgvime, Zedazeni, Davit-Gareji, and Shemokmedi. He restored Jvari Church, Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, Disevi Church, and many other churches in Guria-Samegrelo, Atchara, and Imereti. He devoted special attention to the Shio-Mgvime Monastery and the surrounding area, which had been devastated by that time.
Owing to Saint Alexander’s generous financial contributions, a diocesan school for women was founded in Tbilisi in 1878.
By his initiative and personal contributions, a great number of spiritual and historical books, textbooks and collections of sacred hymns were published. Not a single God-pleasing project was undertaken without Alexander’s support.
Saint Alexander spent the remainder of his days at the Shio-Mgvime Monastery, which he himself had restored. Only once—on September 9, 1907, the day his spiritual son Saint Ilia the Righteous was buried— did he step outside the monastery walls. The eighty-three year-old Alexander outlived the great son of Georgia by two months and fell asleep in the Lord on October 27 of the same year. Saint Alexander is buried at Shio-Mgvime Monastery.