SATURDAY OF THE 6TH WEEK
Anastasia the Martyr of Rome, Our Righteous Father Abramius
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 1:8-11
Brethren, we do not want you to be ignorant of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead; he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and he will deliver us; on him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us in answer to many prayers.
The Lord said, "No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.
Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.
Monastic Martyr Anastasia of Rome
The Monastic Martyr Anastasia the Roman lost her parents when she was three years old, and was taken to be raised by the Igoumeness of a women’s monastery, whose name was Sophia, a nun who had attained a high degree of spiritual perfection. She raised Anastasia in fervent faith, in the fear of God, and obedience. After seventeen years, Anastasia became known as a great ascetic, and she was very beautiful.
The Emperor Decius (249-251) began his persecution of Christians at that time. The city administrator, Probus, following the Emperor's orders, commanded that Anastasia be brought to him. Blessed by her Igoumeness to suffer for Christ, the young martyr Anastasia went out to meet the armed soldiers. Seeing her youth and beauty, Probus first tried flattery to make her deny Christ.
“Why do you waste your youth deprived of pleasure?" he asked. "What is to be gained by enduring tortures and death for the Crucified? Worship our gods, marry a handsome husband, and live with glory and honor.”
While Saint Anastasia stood before the ruler, her mind stood before Christ, and with her spiritual eyes, she beheld the comeliness of her Bridegroom.
The Saint replied, “My spouse, my riches, my life and my happiness are my Lord Jesus Christ, and you cannot turn me away from Him by your deceit!”
Probus had her stripped of her clothing, in order to humiliate her. She told him, "You can have me whipped, beaten, and cut to pieces, and then my nakedness will be hidden by my wounds, and my blood will cover my shame."
Probus subjected Anastasia to horrible tortures. The holy martyr bravely endured all of them, glorifying and praising God. When she became thirsty she asked for some water, and a Christian named Cyril gave her a drink. She thanked him, but Probus had him beheaded.
Then her tormentors cut off her breasts and ripped out her tongue, while an Angel held her upright. When the people witnessed the inhuman and disgusting treatment the Saint received, they became indignant, and Probus was forced to end the tortures by having her beheaded. In this manner, Saint Anastasia received the unfading crown of martyrdom.
Saint Anastasia's body was thrown outside the city limits to be eaten by wild animals, but the Lord did not permit her holy relics to be dishonored. By the instructions of a holy Angel, Igoumeness Sophia found Saint Anastasia’s mutilated body. With the help of two Christians, she buried it in the earth.
Saint Anastasia the Roman should not be confused with Saint Anastasia Pharmakolytria, who is commemorated on December 22.
Venerable Abramius the Recluse, and his niece, Blessed Mary, of Mesopotamia
Saint Abramius the Hermit and Blessed Maria, his niece of Mesopotamia, lived the ascetic life in the village of Chidan, near the city of Edessa. They were contemporaries and fellow countrymen of Saint Ephraim the Syrian (January 28), who afterwards wrote about their life.
Saint Abramius began his difficult exploit of the solitary life in the prime of youth. He left his parents’ home and settled in a desolate wilderness place, far from worldly enticements, and he spent his days in unceasing prayer. After the death of his parents, the saint refused his inheritance and requested his relatives to give it away to the poor. By his strict ascetic life, fasting, and love for mankind, Abramius attracted to him many seeking after spiritual enlightenment, prayer and blessing.
Soon his faith was put to a serious test, as he was appointed presbyter in one of the pagan villages of Mesopotamia. For three years, and sparing no efforts, the saint toiled over the enlightenment of the pagans. He tore down a pagan temple and built a church. Humbly enduring derision and even beatings from obstinate idol-worshippers, he entreated the Lord, “Look down, O Master, upon Your servant, hear my prayer. Strengthen me and set Your servants free from diabolical snares, and grant them to know You, the one true God.” The zealous pastor was granted the happiness to see the culmination of his righteous efforts: the pagans came to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Saint Abramius baptized them himself.
Having fulfilled his priestly duty, Abramius again withdrew into his wilderness, where he continued to glorify God and do His holy will. The devil, put to shame by the deeds of Saint Abramius, tried to entrap him with proud thoughts. Once at midnight, when Saint Abramius was at prayer in his cell, suddenly a light shone and a voice was heard, “Blessed are you, Abramius, for no other man has done my will as you have!” Confuting the wiles of the enemy, the saint said: “I am a sinful man, but I trust in the help and grace of my God. I do not fear you, and your illusions do not scare me.” Then he ordered the devil to depart, in the name of Jesus Christ.
Another time, the devil appeared before the saint in the form of a youth, lit a candle and began to sing Psalm 118/119, “Blessed are the blameless in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.” Perceiving that this also was a demonic temptation, the Elder crossed himself and asked, “If you know that the blameless are blessed, then why trouble them?”
The temper answered, “I provoke them in order to conquer them and turn them away from every good deed.” To this the saint replied, “You gain victory over those who, like yourself, have fallen away from God. You are forced to vanish, like smoke in the wind, from before the face of those who love God.” After these words the devil vanished. Thus Saint Abramius defeated the Enemy, being strengthened by divine grace. After fifty years of ascetic life, he peacefully fell asleep in the Lord.
Saint Abramius’s niece, the Nun Maria, had grown up being edified by his spiritual instruction. Her father died when she was seven, and so she had been raised by her saintly uncle. But the Enemy of the race of man tried to turn her from the true path. At twenty-seven years of age she fell into sin with a man. Thoroughly ashamed, she left her cell, went to another city, and began living in a brothel. Two years later, when he had learned of this, Saint Abramius clad himself in soldier’s garb, so that he would not be recognized, and went to the city to find his niece. He pretended to be one of her “clients,” and revealed his identity once they were alone. With many tears and exhortations, he brought her to repentance and took her back to her cell.
Saint Maria returned to her cell and spent the rest of her days in prayer and tears of repentance. The Lord forgave her and even granted her the gift of healing the sick. She died five years after Saint Abramius.
Venerable Abramius, Archimandrite of Rostov
Saint Abramius, Archimandrite of Rostov, in the world Abercius, left his parents’ home in his youth and entered upon the path of Christian asceticism. Having assumed the monastic schema, Abramius settled at Rostov on the shore of Lake Nero. In the Rostov lands there were many pagans, and the saint worked intensely at spreading the true Faith.
Not far from the cell of the saint was a pagan temple, where the pagans worshipped a stone idol of Veles (Volos), which caused fright among the inhabitants of Rostov. In a miraculous vision the Apostle John the Theologian stood before Abramius, and gave him a staff with a cross on top, with which the venerable one destroyed the idol. At the place of the pagan temple, Saint Abramius founded a monastery in honor of the Theophany and became its head.
In memory of the miraculous appearance, the holy monk built a church named for Saint John the Theologian. Many of the pagans were persuaded and baptized by Saint Abramius. Particularly great was his influence with the children to whom he taught the ability to read and write, instructing them in the law of God, and tonsuring monastics from among them.
Everyone who came to the monastery was accepted with love. The saint’s life was a constant work of prayer and toil for the benefit of the brethren: he chopped firewood for the oven, he laundered the monks’ clothing and carried water for the kitchen. Saint Abramius reposed in old age and was buried in the church of the Theophany.
His holy relics were uncovered in the time of Great Prince Vsevolod (1176-1212). In the year 1551, Tsar Ivan the Terrible, before his campaign against Kazan, made the rounds of holy places. At the Theophany-Abramiev monastery the monks showed him the staff with which Saint Abramius had destroyed the idol of Veles. The Tsar took the staff with him on the campaign, but the cross remained at the monastery. And returning again after the subjugation of the Khan, Ivan the Terrible gave orders to build a new stone church at the Abramiev monastery in honor of the Theophany, with four chapels, and he also supplied it with books and icons.
Martyr Claudius, Asterius, Neon, and Theonilla of Aegæ in Cilicia
The Martyrs Claudius, Asterius, Neones, and Theonilla of Aegae in Cilicia suffered for Christ in the year 285 during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-311). After their father’s death, the stepmother, who did not want to give the children their inheritance, betrayed them to the persecutors of Christians. The governor of Cilicia, who was named Licius, urged the martyrs to renounce Christ and instead to worship idols, and he employed various means of torture. They crucified the unyielding brothers. Saint Theonilla was hung up by her hair and flogged, and had burning coals placed on her chest. When she departed to the Lord, her body was thrown into the sea.
Righteous Anna of Constantinople
Saint Anna and her son Saint John lived in the ninth century. Saint Anna was the daughter of a deacon of the Blachernae church in Constantinople. After the death of her husband, she dressed in men’s clothing and called herself Euthymianus. She and her son Saint John lived in asceticism in one of the Bythinian monasteries near Olympus.
Saint Anna died in Constantinople in 826. Her memory is also celebrated on October 29.
Monastic Martyr Timothy of Esphigmenou, Mount Athos
No information available at this time.
Saint Serapion of Zarzma
Saint Serapion of Zarzma was the son of a Klarjeti aristocrat famed for his wealth and good deeds. Serapion had two brothers, who were still young when their mother died.
Their father also reposed soon after.
From childhood Saint Serapion longed to lead the life of a hermit. With his younger brother, John, he set off for Parekhi Monastery, where he requested the spiritual guidance of “the spiritual father and teacher of orphans,” the great wonderworker Michael of Parekhi.
The older brother remained at home to continue the family tradition of caring for wanderers and the poor.
Saint Michael perceived in the young Serapion true zeal for a divine ministry and blessed him to enter the priesthood.
Once, while he was praying, Saint Michael was instructed in a vision to send his disciples Serapion and John to Samtskhe to found a monastery.
Serapion was alarmed at the thought of such a great responsibility, but he submitted to his spiritual father’s will and set off for Samtskhe with several companions. He took with him a wonderworking icon of Our Lord’s Transfiguration.
The monks climbed to the peak of a very high mountain and, having looked around at their environs, decided to settle there and begin construction of the monastery. But soon the villagers chased the monks away, and the holy fathers located the exact place that their shepherd, Saint Michael, had seen in the vision. At that time a faithful nobleman named George Chorchaneli ruled in this mountainous region. Once, while he was out hunting, George saw smoke over the dense forest and sent a servant to discover the cause. He was soon informed that two remarkable monks had settled in that place. Immediately he set off for the spot, humbly greeted the monks, venerated the wonderworking icon, and asked for the fathers’ blessings.
Overjoyed and inspired by Serapion’s preaching, the prince fell on his knees before him and promised to help him in every way to establish the new monastery. Having donated this land and the surrounding area to the monastery, he presented the monks with a deed assigning ownership of all the territory the monks could cover on foot in one day to the future monastery. The prince sent his servant to accompany them.
The brothers walked over unexplored territory, through dense forests, and over rocky paths. Two local residents, the God-fearing Ia and Garbaneli, accompanied them. But not all the local people received the monks so warmly: the residents of Tsiskvili met them with hostility and tried to block their path.
That very same night a miracle occurred: an earthquake split the rocks that were holding back Lake Satakhve and washed away the entire village of Tsiskvili. Only two brothers survived. To this day this place has been called “Zarzma” [the word “zari” is often used to denote a tragic occurrence].
The brethren began to search for a suitable place to build their church. Saint Serapion wanted to construct the church on a high hill, but John and the other brothers objected. “It is not necessary, Holy Father, to build in this place,” they said. “It is high and cold here, and the brothers are dressed only in rags.”
To resolve this question, the holy fathers filled two small icon lamps with equal amounts of oil. Serapion placed one of them at the top of the hill, John placed the other near a stream on the southern side of the hill, and they began to pray. At daybreak Serapion’s lamp had already gone out, but John’s lamp continued to burn until midday. Thus they began to build the church in the place that John had chosen.
The monks faced many obstacles in the construction of their church. The area was covered with dense forest, and the stones necessary for building could be found only in the river. At George Chorchaneli’s suggestion, they salvaged the stone from a church that had been destroyed by the earthquake.
After three years of construction, the monastery was completed, and the wonderworking icon of the Transfiguration was placed in the altar of the church. The monks fashioned cells, and Saint Serapion established the Rule of the monastery.
When he was approaching death, Michael of Parekhi sent two of his disciples to Serapion and John. When he learned that the construction of the monastery was completed, he rejoiced exceedingly and blessed its benefactor, George Chorchaneli. Then he took the withered branch of a box tree and presented it to him, saying, “My son, plant this tree near the church and, if it blossoms again, know that it is God’s will that you zealously continue the work you have begun in His name.” After some time the branch blossomed, and this miracle became known to many.
When the blessed Serapion sensed the approach of death, he summoned the brothers, bade them farewell, and appointed Hieromonk George his successor as abbot. He was buried with great honor on the eastern side of the altar at the monastery church.