THE HOLY GREAT MARTYR DEMETRIUS THE MYRRH-STREAMER
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
The Holy Great Martyr Demetrius the Myrrh-streamer, Commemoration of the Great Earthquake in Constantinople (740), Eata of Hexham
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY 2:1-10
Timothy, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hardworking farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descended from David, as preached in my gospel, the gospel for which I am suffering and wearing fetters like a criminal. But the word of God is not fettered. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.
JOHN 15:17-27; 16:1-2
The Lord said to his disciples: "This I command you, to love one another. If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It is to fulfill the word that is written in their law, 'They hated me without a cause.' But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning. I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
The Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios the Myrrh-gusher of Thessaloniki was the son of a Roman proconsul in Thessaloniki. Three centuries had elapsed and Roman paganism, spiritually shattered and defeated by the multitude of martyrs and confessors of the Savior, intensified its persecutions. The parents of Saint Dēmḗtrios were secret Christians, and he was baptized and raised in the Christian Faith in a secret church in his father’s home.
By the time Dēmḗtrios had reached maturity and his father had died, Emperor Galerius Maximian had ascended the throne (305). Maximian, confident in Dēmḗtrios's education as well as his administrative and military abilities, appointed him to his father’s position as proconsul of the Thessaloniki district. The young commander's principal duties were to defend the city from barbarians and to eradicate Christianity. The Emperor's policy regarding Christians was expressed simply: “Put to death anyone who calls on the name of Christ.” The Emperor did not suspect that by appointing Dēmḗtrios he had provided him with the opportunity to bring many people to Christ.
Accepting the appointment, Dēmḗtrios returned to Thessaloniki and confessed and glorified our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of persecuting and executing Christians, he began to teach the Christian Faith openly to the inhabitants of the city and to overthrow pagan customs and the worship of idols. The compiler of his Life, Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9), says that because of his teaching zeal he became “a second Apostle Paul” for Thessaloniki, particularly since “the Apostle to the Gentiles” founded the first community of believers in the city (1 Thess. and 2 Thess.).
The Lord also destined Saint Dēmḗtrios to follow Saint Paul on the path to martyrdom. When Maximian learned that the newly-appointed proconsul was a Christian, and that he had converted many Roman subjects to Christianity, the Emperor's rage knew no bounds. Returning from a campaign in the area of the Black Sea, the Emperor decided to lead his army through Thessaloniki, determined to massacre the Christians.
Learning of this, Saint Dēmḗtrios ordered his faithful servant Lupus to give his wealth to the poor saying, “Distribute my earthly riches among them, for we shall seek heavenly riches for ourselves.” He began to pray and fast, preparing himself for martyrdom.
When the Emperor came into the city, he summoned Dēmḗtrios, who boldly confessed himself a Christian and denounced the falsehood and futility of Roman polytheism. Maximian ordered Dēmḗtrios to be thrown into prison. An Angel appeared to him, comforting and encouraging him.
Meanwhile the Emperor amused himself by staging games in the circus. His champion was a German by the name of Lyaeos. He challenged Christians to wrestle with him on a platform built over the upturned spears of the victorious soldiers. A brave Christian named Nestor went to the prison to Saint Dēmḗtrios, his instructor in the Faith, asking for his blessing to fight the barbarian. With the blessing and prayers of Saint Dēmḗtrios, Nestor defeated the fierce German and hurled him from the platform onto the spears of the soldiers, just as the murderous pagan would have done with the Christian. The enraged commander ordered the execution of the holy Martyr Nestor (October 27) and sent a guard to the prison to kill Saint Dēmḗtrios. At dawn on October 26, 306 soldiers appeared in the Saint's underground prison and ran him through with lances. His faithful servant, Saint Lupus, gathered up the blood-soaked garment of Saint Dēmḗtrios he took the imperial ring from his finger, a symbol of his high status, and dipped it in the blood. With the ring and other holy things sanctified the blood of Saint Dēmḗtrios, Saint Lupus began to heal the infirm. The Emperor ordered his soldiers to arrest and kill him.
The body of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios was cast out for wild animals to devour, but the Christians took it and secretly buried it in the earth.
During the reign of Saint Constantine (306-337), a church was built over the grave of Saint Dēmḗtrios. A hundred years later, during the construction of a majestic new church on the old spot, the incorrupt relics of the holy martyr were uncovered. Since the seventh century a miraculous flow of fragrant myrrh has been found beneath the crypt of the Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios, so he is called “the Myrrh-gusher.”
Several times, those venerating the holy wonderworker tried to bring his holy relics, or a part of them, to Constantinople. Invariably, Saint Dēmḗtrios made it clear that he would not permit anyone to remove even a portion of his relics.
It is interesting that among the barbarians threatening the Romans, Slavs occupied an important place, in particular those settling upon the Thessalonian peninsula. Some even believe that the parents of Saint Dēmḗtrios were of Slavic descent. While advancing towards the city, pagan Slavs were repeatedly turned away by the apparition of a threatening radiant youth, going around on the walls and inspiring terror in the enemy soldiers. Perhaps this is why the name of Saint Dēmḗtrios was particularly venerated among the Slavic nations after they were enlightened by the Gospel. On the other hand, Greeks dismiss the idea that Saint Dēmḗtrios was a Slavic saint.
The very first pages of the Russian Primary Chronicle, as foreordained by God, is bound up with the name of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki. The Chronicle relates that when Oleg the Wise threatened the Greeks at Constantinople (907), the Greeks became terrified and said, “This is not Oleg, but rather Saint Dēmḗtrios sent upon us from God.” Russian soldiers always believed that they were under the special protection of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios. Moreover, in the old Russian barracks the Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios was always depicted as Russian. Thus this image entered the soul of the Russian nation.
Church veneration of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios in Russia began shortly after the Baptism of Rus. Toward the beginning of the 1070s the Dimitriev monastery at Kiev, known afterwards as the Mikhailov-Zlatoverkh monastery, was founded, The monastery was built by the son of Yaroslav the Wise, Great Prince Izyaslav, Dēmḗtrios in Baptism (+ 1078). The mosaic icon of Saint Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki from the cathedral of the Dimitriev monastery has been preserved up to the present day, and is in the Tretiakov Gallery.
In the years 1194-1197 the Great Prince of Vladimir, Vsevolod III the Great-Nest (Dēmḗtrios in Baptism) “built at his court a beautiful church of the holy martyr Dēmḗtrios, and adorned it wondrously with icons and frescoes.” The Dimitriev cathedral also reveals the embellishment of ancient Vladimir. The wonderworking icon of Saint Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki from the cathedral iconostasis is located even now in Moscow, at the Tretiakov gallery. It was painted on a piece of wood from the grave of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios, brought from Thessaloniki to Vladimir in 1197.
One of the most precious depictions of the saint, a fresco on a column of the Vladimir Dormition cathedral, was painted by the holy Iconographer Andrew Rublev (July 4).
The family of Saint Alexander Nevsky (November 23 also venerated Saint Dēmḗtrios. Saint Alexander named his eldest son in honor of the holy Great Martyr. His younger son, Prince Daniel of Moscow (March 4), built a church dedicated to the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios in the 1280s. This was the first stone church in the Moscow Kremlin. Later in 1326, under Ivan Kalita, it was taken down and the Dormition cathedral was built in its place.
The memory of Saint Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki is historically associated in Rus with the military, patriotism and the defense of the country. This is apparent by the saint’s depiction on icons as a soldier in plumed armor, with a spear and sword in hand. There is a scroll (in later depictions) on which is written the prayer of Saint Dēmḗtrios for the salvation of the people of Thessaloniki, “Lord, do not permit the city or the people to perish. If You save the city and the people, I shall be saved with them. If they perish, I will perish with them.”
In the particular spiritual experience of the Russian Church, veneration of the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki is closely linked with the memory of the defense of the nation and Church by the Great Prince of Moscow, Dēmḗtrios of the Don (May 19). “An Account of the Life and Repose of the Great Prince Dēmḗtrios of the Don, Tsar of Russia,” written in the year 1393, already regards the Great Prince as a Saint, as other old Russian histories do. Great Prince Dēmḗtrios was a spiritual son and disciple of Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow (February 12), and a disciple and associate of other great figures of prayer in the Russian Land: Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25), Dēmḗtrios of Priluki (February 11), Saint Theodore of Rostov (November 28). The Account states:
He [Great Prince Dēmḗtrios] worried a great deal about the churches of God, and he held the territory of the Russian land by his bravery: he conquered many enemies who had risen against us, and he protected his glorious city Moscow with wondrous walls. …The land of Russia prospered during the years of his reign.
From the time of the building of the white-walled Kremlin (1366) by Great Prince Dēmḗtrios, Moscow was called “White-Stoned.”
By the prayers of his Heavenly patron, the holy warrior Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki, Great Prince Dēmḗtrios, in addition to his brilliant military victories, also gained the further prominence of Russia. He repelled the onslaught of the Lithuanian armies of Olgerd, he routed the Tatar army of Begich at the River Vozha (1378), and he smashed the military might of all the Golden Horde at the Battle of Kulikovo Field on September 8, 1380 (the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos), set between the Rivers Don and Nepryadva. The Battle of Kulikovo, for which the nation calls him Dēmḗtrios of the Don, became the first Russian national exploit, rallying the spiritual power of the Russian nation around Moscow. The “Zadonschina,” an inspiring historic poem written by the priest Sophronios of Ryazem (1381) is devoted to this event.
Prince Dēmḗtrios of the Don had a great reverence for the holy Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios. In 1380, on the eve of the Battle of Kulikovo, he solemnly transferred from Vladimir to Moscow the most holy object in the Vladimir Dimitriev cathedral: the icon of the Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios of Thessaloniki, painted on a board from the grave of the saint. A chapel dedicated to the Great Martyr Dēmḗtrios was built at Moscow’s Dormition Cathedral.
The Saint Dēmḗtrios Memorial Saturday was established for church-wide remembrance of the soldiers who fell in the Battle of Kulikovo. This memorial service was held for the first time at the Trinity-Saint Sergius monastery on October 20, 1380 by Saint Sergius of Radonezh, in the presence of Great Prince Dēmḗtrios of the Don. It is an annual remembrance of the heroes of the Battle of Kulikovo, among whom are the Schema-monks Alexander (Peresvet) and Andrew (Oslyab).
Saint Dēmḗtrios is regarded as a protector of the young, and is also invoked by those struggling with lustful temptations.
In 740, at the time of the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian, there was a terrible earthquake at Constantinople. Seeing this as God’s just punishment for their sins, the people repented and prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos and to Saint Demetrius to help them. God had mercy on them, and the earthquake stopped.
Saint Theophilus of the Kiev Caves, Far Caves and Archbishop of Novgorod, was chosen by lot after the death of the holy hierarch Jonah (November 5). He was elevated to the dignity of Archbishop of Novgorod on December 15, 1472 at Moscow. Until his elevation, he had pursued asceticism in the Otensk monastery.
A harsh destiny was allotted the saint in the guidance of the Novgorod flock. The mayor Martha Boretskaya and her adherents stirred up and agitated the people against the Great Prince of Moscow, Ivan III. The monk Pimen, a Boretskaya partisan, roused enmity against the archbishop in the flock. Some of the Novgorod populace were inclined to go over to the side of Lithuania. Unfaithful to the Moscow principality, they were prepared to fall into apostasy.
Saint Theophilus stopped the rebellious Novgorodians saying, “Do not betray Orthodoxy nor become a flock of apostates. I’ll go back to my humble cell, from which you drew me out to the shame of rebellion.” This letter of disavowal of the saint, written in 1479, is preserved. The short-sighted people did not heed the words of the pastor, and a fratricidal war broke out between Moscow and Novgorod. The defeated Novgorodians were compelled to beg for mercy, and many of them owed their life to the intercession of the saint. In 1480, Saint Theophilus was sent by Ivan III to prison in the Moscow Chudov monastery and “he sat there a full three years, and died there.”
By tradition, when Saint Theophilus lay sick at the Chudov monastery, Saint Niphon of Novgorod (April 8), who is buried in the Kiev Caves of Saint Anthony, appeared to him in a dream. The saint reminded him of his promise to venerate the Kievan wonderworkers. It is said that the holy archbishop went to Kiev, and just as he approached the Dniepr his sickness increased. He received a revelation that although he would not reach the Caves alive, his body would rest in them. This was fulfilled.
His memory is celebrated also with the Synaxis of the Saints of the Kiev Far Caves on August 28, and on the Second Sunday of the Great Fast, with the Synaxis of the Kiev Caves Fathers.
The Martyr Lupus lived at the end of the third century and beginning of the fourth century, and was a faithful servant of the holy Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica (October 26). Being present at the death of his master, he soaked his own clothing with his blood and took a ring from his hand. With this clothing, and with the ring and the name of the Great Martyr Demetrius, Saint Lupus worked many miracles at Thessalonica. He destroyed pagan idols, for which he was subjected to persecution by the pagans, but he was preserved unharmed by the power of God.
Saint Lupus voluntarily delivered himself into the hands of the torturers, and by order of the emperor Maximian Galerius, he was beheaded by the sword.
Saint Athanasius of Medikion Monastery (+ ca. 814) loved the monastic life and secretly left his parental home, but was forcibly returned by his father. After a certain time Athanasius entered the Medikion monastery in Bithynia with his father’s consent.
He was a companion of Saint Nicetas (April 3) and he died about the year 814. A cypress tree grew up on his grave; from which occurred many healings, by the grace of God.
Saint Joseph was a monk of Dionysiou Monastery on Mt. Athos, where he shone forth with the virtues of monastic life. He was an iconographer, and he painted the icon of the holy Archangels on the iconostasis of Dionysiou’s main church.
In obedience to the instructions of Igumen Stephen, Saint Joseph traveled to Constantinople with Eudocimus, who had apostasized from Orthodoxy to become a Moslem. Eudocimus repented, and wished to wipe out his sin through martyrdom.
When faced with torture and death, however, the unfortunate Eudocimus denied Christ again, blaming Joseph for turning him from Islam.
Saint Joseph was arrested and threatened with death. In spite of many tortures, he refused to convert to Islam. This holy martyr of Christ was hanged on February 17, 1819, and so he obtained an incorruptible crown of glory.
Some sources list his commemoration on February 17, while others list him on September 14 or October 26.
Saint Demetrius of Tsilibinsk (14th Century), founder of the Archangel Tsilibinsk wilderness monastery in Vologda diocese, was a beloved disciple of Saint Stephen of Perm (April 26). The monk built a church in honor of the Archangel Michael for the newly-converted. Beneath this temple he dug out a cave and for a long time lived there in solitude.
TUESDAY OF THE 6TH WEEK
The Holy Martyrs Marcian and Martyrius the Notaries, Tabitha, who was raised from the dead by Peter the Apostle, Chrysaphios (or Chrysaphos) the Martyr, Martyr Chrysanthe
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS 2:16-23
Brethren, I do not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrifical offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. They all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But Timothy’s worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me.
At that time, Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.'” And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
The Martyrs Marcian and Martyrius, Notaries of Constantinople served in a Constantinople cathedral. Marcian was a reader and Martyrius a subdeacon. They both performed in the capacity of notaries, i.e. secretaries, for Patriarch Paul the Confessor (November 6).
Arian heretics expelled and secretly executed the righteous Patriarch Paul. His throne was given to the heretic Macedonius. The heretics attempted to entice Saints Marcian and Martyrius over to their side by flattery. They offered them gold and promised to consecrate them as archbishops, but all the efforts of the Arians were in vain.
Then the impious threatened to slander them before the emperor, and sought to intimidate them with torture and death. But the saints steadfastly confessed Orthodoxy, as handed down by the Fathers of the Church. Marcian and Martyrius were sentenced to death. Before death, the martyrs prayed, “Lord God, Who has invisibly created our hearts, and directed all our deeds, accept with peace the souls of Your servants, since we perish for You and are considered as sheep for the slaughter (Ps 32/33:15; 43/44:22). We rejoice that by such a death we shall depart this life for Your Name. Grant us to be partakers of life eternal with You, the Source of life.” After their prayer the martyrs, with quiet rejoicing, bent their necks beneath the sword of the impious (+ ca. 335).
Their holy bodies were reverently buried by Orthodox Christians. Later, by decree of Saint John Chrysostom, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to a church built in their honor. Believers here were healed of many infirmities through the prayers of the saints, to the glory of the One Life-Creating Trinity.
Saint Martyrius the Deacon is remembered in the Seventh Ode of the Canon to the Fathers of the Kiev Far Caves. Here his love of toil, justice and ardent purity, and even his gift of expelling demons and healing infirmities are praised. His memory is celebrated also on August 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
The Martyr Anastasius the Fuller lived at Salona in Dalmatia during the third century. He was arrested and brought to trial because of his missionary activity in Salona. Saint Anastasius, boldly and without fear, confessed Christ as the true God and Creator of all. He even painted a cross on his door during the persecution of Diocletian (284-311).
Saint Anastasius was sentenced to death by the decision of the court, and the pagans tied a stone around his neck and threw his body into the sea. A righteous Christian, the rich matron Ascalopia, found the body of Saint Anastasius and reverently buried him in her estate church. The relics of the holy martyr were glorified by many miracles.
Saint Anastasius the Fuller is also commemorated on December 5.
Saint Tabitha, the widow raised from the dead by the Apostle Peter, was a virtuous and kindly woman who belonged to the Christian community in Joppa. Being grievously ill, she suddenly died. At the time, the Apostle Peter was preaching at Lydda, not far from Joppa. Messengers were sent to him with an urgent request for help. When the Apostle arrived at Joppa, Tabitha was already dead. On bended knee, Saint Peter made a fervent prayer to the Lord. Then he went to the bed and called out, “Tabitha, get up!” She arose, completely healed (Acts 9:36).
Saint Tabitha is considered the patron saint of tailors and seamstresses, since she was known for sewing coats and other garments (Acts 9:39).
MONDAY OF THE 6TH WEEK
Arethas the Great Martyr and His Fellow Martyrs, Sebastiane the Martyr, Maglorious of Sark
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS 2:12-15
Brethren, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud.
The Lord said, "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Then turning to the disciples he said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
The Martyr Arethas and with him 4299 Martyrs suffered for the Lord Jesus Christ in the sixth century. Arethas was prefect of the Christian city of Negran in Arabia. The Arabian (or Omirite) king, Dunaan, who was Jewish, decided to eliminate Christianity from the land. He issued an edict that all followers of Christ were to be put to death.
Because the inhabitants of Negran remained faithful to the Lord, Dunaan came with a large army to destroy the city. At the city walls of Negran the king’s heralds announced that Dunaan would only spare those who renounced Christ and referred to His Cross as a “sign of malediction.”
Not daring to assault the Christian city by force, Dunaan resorted to a ruse. Dunaan swore an oath that he would not force the Christians into Judaism, but would merely collect a tribute from Negran. The inhabitants of the city would not heed the advice of Saint Arethas, and putting their trust in Dunaan, they opened the city gates.
The very next day Dunaan gave orders to light an immense fire and throw all the clergy of the city into it in order to frighten the rest of the Christians. 427 men were burned. He also threw the prefect Arethas and the other chief men into prison. Then the oppressor sent his messengers through the city to convert the Christians to Judaism. Dunaan himself conversed with those inhabitants brought from the prisons, saying, “I do not demand that you should renounce the God of heaven and earth, nor do I want you to worship idols, I want merely that you do not believe in Jesus Christ, since the Crucified One was a man, and not God.”
The holy martyrs replied that Jesus is God the Word, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who for the salvation of mankind was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. Those suffering said, “We shall not abjure Christ, since He is Life for us. To die for Him is to find Life.”
More than four thousand Christians, men, women, both the aged and children, from the city of Negran and surrounding villages suffered martyrdom for Christ.
Saint Arethas (12th century) was a hermit of the Near Caves in Kiev. He struggled at the Kiev Caves monastery and was buried in the Near Caves.
Saint Arethas was from Polotsk. While living at the monastery, he kept many possessions in his cell. One day robbers made off with it. Grieving over his lost riches, Saint Arethas began to murmur against God, for which he was stricken with a serious illness. Being at the very brink of death, he saw how both angels and devils had come for him and were arguing between them. The devils asserted that he ought to be given over to them because of his avarice and complaints against God. Then the angels said to him, “You hapless man, if you had given thanks to God for the pilfered riches, this would have been accounted as charity for you.”
After this vision, the saint recovered. He spent his final days as a hermit, in distress and repentance over his sins, having renounced all earthly possessions. Saint Arethas died not later than 1190. In the Iconographic Manuals, the saint is described in this way: “In appearance stooped over, his beard the same length as Kozmina, dressed in monastic garb.”
The general commemoration of all the Fathers of the Near Caves takes place on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Saint Sisoes (13th century) was a hermit of the Near Caves in Kiev. He struggled at the Kiev Caves monastery and was buried in the Near Caves.
In the general service for the Fathers of the Kiev Caves, Saint Sisoes is called “radiant in fasting.”
The general commemoration of all the Fathers of the Near Caves takes place on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Saint Theophilus (12th-13th century) was a hermit of the Near Caves in Kiev. He struggled at the Kiev Caves monastery and was buried in the Near Caves.
Saint Theophilus, in the general service to the Fathers of the Kiev Caves, is called “resplendent in miracles.”
The general commemoration of all the Fathers of the Near Caves takes place on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Blessed Elesbaan1 was the Emperor of what is now Ethiopia, and lived when Arabia was ruled by Dunaan, an oppressor of Christians. The pious Elesbaan was unable to stand by while those who believed in Christ were being massacred. He declared war on Dunaan, but his first military campaign was not successful.
Desiring to learn the reason for his defeat, Elesbaan, inspired by a revelation from above, visited a recluse named Zenon. He revealed to the Emperor that he had acted unrighteously in his desire to take revenge against Dunaan, for the Lord has said, “Vengeance is mine, I shall repay!” (Hebrews 10:30).
The holy ascetic urged Elesbaan to promise that he would devote the rest of his life to God, if he wished to escape His wrath for his self-willed revenge, and then he would defeat Dunaan. Saint Elesbaan made that vow to the Lord, and in 520 he and his army confronted the enemy. This time, he defeated, captured, and executed Dunaan. According to the Roman Martyrology, after Elesbaan defeated the enemies of Christ, he sent his royal diadem to Jerusalem to be hung near the Life-Giving tomb of Christ, during the reign of Emperor Justin.
Following his victory, the Saint kept his word and abdicated as Emperor, secluding himself in a monastery. For the next fifteen years he lived a life of strict fasting and asceticism.
Emperor Elesbaan reposed around 553-555.
1 His name is given as Kaleb on his coins and inscriptions.
The Martyr Syncletica and her two daughters suffered under the Arabian king Dunaan. Saint Syncletica was a descendant of an illustrious family. Left widowed while still quite young, she devoted herself to the Christian upbringing of her daughters, and she herself led a life both chaste and virtuous.
Dunaan in the meantime had begun a persecution, intending to eliminate Christians from his realm. He summoned Saint Syncletica and her daughters before him, and in urging her to forsake her “folly,” he promised as reward to take her into the retinue of his wife.
“How can you not be afraid, O King, to speak evil of Him Who has given you both royal crown and life?” replied the holy martyr.
Dunaan gave orders to lead Saint Syncletica and her daughters through the city as though they were criminals. Women, looking on at the disgrace of the saint, started crying, but she told them that this “shame” for her was dearer than any earthly honor.
Again they brought the martyr before Dunaan, and he said, “If you wish to remain alive, you must renounce Christ.”
“If I do, then who will deliver me from eternal death?” the saint asked. In a rage, the tormentor ordered that Saint Syncletica’s daughters be killed first, and then for the mother to be beheaded with a sword.
Saint Athanasius I, Patriarch of Constantinople (1289-1293; 1303-1311), in the world Alexius, was from Adrianopolis. While still in his youth, thriving upon the knowledge of the wisdom of Christ, he left his home and went to Thessalonica, where he was tonsured in one of the monasteries with the name Acacius. He soon withdrew to Mount Athos and joined the brotherhood of the Esphigmenou monastery, where for three years he served in the trapeza. In his works and his ascetic deeds he acquired the gift of tears, and by his virtuous acts he won the overall goodwill of the brethren.
Shunning praise, Acacius humbly left Mt. Athos at first for the holy places in Jerusalem, and then to Mount Patra, where for a long time he lived ascetically as an hermit. From there the ascetic transferred to the Auxention monastery, and then to Mount Galanteia to the monastery of Blessed Lazarus, where he accepted the great angelic schema with the name Athanasius, was ordained a priest and became ecclesiarch (monk in charge of the sacred relics and vessels in the church). Here the saint was granted a divine revelation: he heard the Voice of the Lord from a crucifix, summoning him to pastoral service.
Wishing to strengthen his spirit still more in silence and prayer, Saint Athanasius again settled on Mount Athos after ten years. But because of disorders arising there he returned to Mount Galanteia. Here also he was not long to remain in solitude. Many people thronged to him for pastoral guidance, and so he organized a women’s monastery there.
During this time the throne of the Church of Constantinople fell vacant after the disturbances and disorder of the period of the Patriarch John Bekkos. At the suggestion of the pious emperor Andronicus Paleologos, a council of hierarchs and clergy unanimously chose Saint Athanasius to the Patriarchal throne of the Church in 1289.
Patriarch Athanasius began fervently to fulfill his new obedience and did much for strengthening the Church. His strictness of conviction roused the dissatisfaction of influential clergy, and in 1293 he was compelled to resign the throne and to retire again to his own monastery, where he lived an ascetic life in solitude. In 1303 he was again entrusted with the staff of patriarchal service, which he worthily fulfilled for another seven years. In 1308 Saint Athanasius established Saint Peter as Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus (December 21).
Again, because of some sort of dissatisfaction, and not wanting to be the cause of church discord, Saint Athanasius resigned the governance of the Church in 1311. He departed to his own monastery, devoting himself fully to monastic deeds.
Toward the end of his life, the saint was again found worthy to behold Christ. The Lord reproached him because Athanasius had not carried out his pastoral duty to the end. Weeping, the saint repented of his cowardice and received from the Lord both forgiveness and the gift of wonderworking. Saint Athanasius died at the age of 100.
In Greek usage, Saint Athanasios is commemorated on October 28.
How much consolation is contained in just the name of this Icon – awakening, strengthening the people's faith in the Mother of God, as a wondrous helper, who hastens everywhere where the groan of human suffering is heard, who wipes away the tears of those who mourn, and in sorrow itself, bestows moments of delight and heavenly joy. Rejoice always, O Heavenly Joy of all who Sorrow.
In accordance with the faith of the people in the loving kindness of the Mother of God toward the human race, it has been customary to depict the Theotokos in a way which conforms to what is heard in the words of the prayer: "O Most Holy Sovereign Lady Theotokos, you are higher than all the Angels and Archangels, and more honorable than all creation. You are the helper of the oppressed, the hope of the hopeless, the aid of the poor, the consolation of the grieving, the nourished of the hungry, the clothing of the naked, the healing of the sick, the salvation of the sinful, the help and succor of all Christians."
Therefore, the Mother of God is depicted in full stature, sometimes with the Divine Child in her arms (as in the Moscow prototype), sometimes without the Child (as in the Icon with coins, which was glorified in St. Petersburg on July 23, 1888. She is surrounded by all sorts of distressed people – the naked, the offended, and the hungry. Around these poor unfortunates Angels are often depicted, sent by the Sovereign Lady to alleviate human suffering. The Angels, coming close to the people, point to the Mother of God, who is depicted on the "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Icons, either in glory, with a crown on her head and in royal vesture, or in the usual garments of her earthly sojourn, and in a white cloth on her head.
In Moscow, in the XVII century, a certain Icon of the Mother of God of this name became famous. The first miracle occurred in 1688 for the ailing Euphemia, the sister of Patriarch Joachim, who lived on Ordynka. She experienced terrible suffering from a wound in her side. This wound was so great that her intestines were visible. The patient was waiting for death, but at the same time, she did not lose hope in Divine help. One day, after asking to partake of the Holy Mysteries, she began to cry out to the Most Holy Theotokos with great faith: "Hear me, All-Merciful Sovereign Lady! The entire world boasts of you, and all receive your abundant mercies. I deserve to be punished for my iniquities, but do not punish me in your wrath. Behold my harsh infirmity, and have mercy on me."
After this prayer, the patient heard a voice: "Euphemia, in your suffering, why do you not resort to the universal Healer of all?"
Astonished by the voice Euphemia replied, "Where may I find such a Healer?"
The answer came: "There is an image of me in the church of my Son's Transfiguration, called "Joy of all who Sorrow." It stands on the left side in the trapeza, where the women usually stand. Summon the priest from that church to come to your house with the Icon, and when he has served a Moleben with the Sanctification of Water, you shall receive healing. Do not forget my mercy toward you, and proclaim it for the glorification of my name."
When Euphemia recovered from the excitement of this vision, she learned from her relatives that in the church of the Transfiguration, on Ordynka, there really was a "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Icon of the Mother of God, so she summoned the priest to come to her house with the Icon. After serving a Moleben with the Sanctification of Water, Euphemia was healed on October 24, 1688. Later, a Feast was established in honor of this Icon in remembrance of her healing which took place on this day.
Some think that the original "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Icon of the Mother of God was brought to St. Petersburg, to Princess Natalia Alekseevna, and that it is precisely the image that stands in the Sorrowful Church, on Shpalerna. However, it is more probable that the original Icon remained in Moscow.
Saint John, Hermit of Pskov (+1616) lived an ascetic life during a terrible time of military troubles. In 1592 the Swedes besieged the city of Pskov. From 1608, for seven years, Polish forces attacked under the leadership of Lisovski. It was only in the week before the death of the monk, through the intercession of the Pskov Caves Icon of the Mother of God and the Pskov Saints, that Pskov was delivered from the besieging army of the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus.
St John, as the chronicle relates, “lived within the city walls for 23 years; his fish was rancid and he did not eat bread. He lived within the city as though in a wilderness, in great silence,” and he died on October 24, 1616.
6TH SUNDAY OF LUKE
6th Sunday of Luke, James (Iakovos) the Apostle, brother of Our Lord, Our Righteous Father Ignatius, Patriarch of Constantinople
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 1:11-19
Brethren, I would have you know that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it; and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.
At that time, as Jesus arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, there met him a man from the city who had demons; for a long time he had worn no clothes and he lived not in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, and said with a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, do not torment me." For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him; he was kept under guard, and bound with chains and fetters, but he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them leave. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. When the herdsmen saw what happened, they fled, and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how he who had been possessed with demons was healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gadarenes asked him to depart from them; for they were seized with great fear; so he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but he sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
One day, the cave where holy ascetic Makarios lived was found by three monks from the Monastery of Saint Asclepius in Mesopotamia. Sergius, Hyginos and Theophilos had left the monastery in order to wander through the world, seeking a sign from God which would be beneficial for their salvation. Suddenly, as they approached the cave, they noticed a marvelous fragrance issuing forth from it. Then they saw an old man walking toward them, covered only by his hair and a beard which reached his knees. He threw himself to the ground and remained there for several minutes, until he was sure the three strangers were not really demons. When he was satisfied that he was not experiencing some sort of delusion, he invited them into his cave. The oldest monk asked him to relate his story, which he did.
Saint Makarios told them that he was born in Rome and was the son of a wealthy Senator named John. When he was old enough to be married, his parents betrothed him against his will. There was a celebration following the wedding, but instead of entering the bridal chamber, he fled to the home of a pious widow, where he spent seven days secretly weeping and entreating God to help him. When he left her house, Makarios met a well-dressed old man of noble demeanor. This man ordered Makarios to accompany him. Makarios did follow him for three years, until one day they came to a cave, and then the old man vanished. He appeared to Makarios in a dream soon afterward and revealed that he was the Archangel Raphael, who had guided Tobias in his travels. Before he vanished, the Archangel entrusted him to God’s mercy.
Soon after he first moved into the cave, Makarios saw a most beautiful young woman standing before him, who said that she also had fled from an unwanted marriage in Rome. In spite of his caution, Saint Makarios did not have sufficient discernment to escape the devil’s snare, and so he allowed the girl to spend the night in his cave. For the first time in his life, he was assaulted by the fiery darts of carnal desire, and he sinned with the girl. Suddenly she disappeared, and the devil rejoiced because he had tempted the ascetic to sin.
At that moment Saint Makarios realized the seriousness of his fall. Weeping bitterly, he decided to leave the cave and find another place where he might do penance. Along the way, the Archangel Raphael appeared to him once again and urged him to return. He told him that God would hear his prayers if he remained in the cave. So he went back and subjected his flesh to severe fasting, vigils and absolute self-denial for many years, so that he might recover the purity of his soul in order to contemplate God.
After he had edified the three brethren with the story of his struggles, Saint Makarios sent them on their way in peace. His sin was very great, but so was his repentance; therefore, he fell asleep in the Lord in the presence of the angels and the saints.
The precise date of the saint’s repose is not known, but it was probably at the end of the fourth century, or the beginning of the fifth.
Holy Apostle James, the Brother of God (Adelphotheos) was the son of Righteous Joseph the Betrothed of the Most Holy Theotokos (December 26). From his early years James was a Nazarene, a man especially dedicated to God. The Nazarenes vowed to preserve their virginity, to abstain from wine, to refrain from eating meat, and not to cut their hair. The vow of the Nazarenes symbolized a life of holiness and purity, commanded formerly by the Lord for all Israel. When the Savior began to teach the nation about the Kingdom of God, Saint James believed in Christ and became His apostle. He was chosen as the first Bishop of Jerusalem.
Saint James presided over the Council of Jerusalem and his word was decisive (Acts 15). In his thirty years as bishop, Saint James converted many of the Jews to Christianity. Annoyed by this, the Pharisees and the Scribes plotted together to kill Saint James. They led the saint up on the pinnacle of the Jerusalem Temple and asked what he thought of Jesus. The holy Apostle began to bear witness that Christ is the Messiah, which was not the response the Pharisees were expecting. Greatly angered, the Jewish teachers threw him off the roof. The saint did not die immediately, but gathering his final strength, he prayed to the Lord for his enemies while they were stoning him. Saint James’ martyrdom occurred about 63 A.D.
The holy Apostle James composed a Divine Liturgy, which formed the basis of the Liturgies of Saints Basil the Great and John Chrysostom. The Church has preserved an Epistle of Saint James, one of the books of the New Testament.
In 1853, Patriarch Hierotheus of Alexandria sent to Moscow a portion of the relics of Saint James. The Church distinguishes between the holy Apostle James the Brother of God, and Saint James the son of Zebedee (April 30) and Saint James the son of Alphaeus (October 9).
Translation of the relics of Blessed James of Borovichi, Wonderworker of Novgorod Saint James took upon himself the arduous task of foolishness for Christ in his youth. Most of the details of his life are unknown, but the Lord glorified him after death.
In the year 1540, on the third day of Pascha, a large block of ice floated up against the current along the River Msta to the village of Borovichi (in Novgorod district), and on this block of ice stood the coffin (made from an oak log) without cover, in which the body of the youth lay. Shunning the holy relics, peasants with poles pushed the block of ice back into the river, but it returned to the shore. This was repeated three times. That night the youth appeared in a dream to the elders of the village, who had seen him upon the ice-floe, and said, “I am also a Christian just like you. Don’t push me away. My name is James. I am the namesake of Saint James, the Brother of God.”
The relics of the holy youth were first placed in a chapel, then in 1544 were transferred to the Descent of the Holy Spirit church. Then the annual commemoration of the saint every year on October 23 was established. The Lord, having glorified his God-pleasing one, granted the relics of Saint James a curative power. A Feastday with Matins was established in 1572. The Iconographic Manuals describe Saint James: “A youth, bare, girded with a piece of cloth.” In 1657 Patriarch Nikon sent part of the relics to Valdai, to the Ivḗron Monastery.
Saint Ignatius, Patriarch of Constantinople (847-857; 867-877), in the world Nicetas, was of imperial lineage. When his father, the emperor Michael I (811-813), was deposed from the imperial throne by Leo the Armenian (813-820), the fifteen-year-old youth Ignatius was imprisoned in a monastery. Life in the monastery strengthened Saint Ignatius in faith and in piety. Soon he was made igumen of the monastery, and later he was chosen Patriarch of Constantinople.
When Michael III (855-867) ascended the throne he was still a minor, so the country was actually governed by his uncle, Bardas, an impious and unchaste man. Patriarch Ignatius urged Bardas to forsake his sinful life and when he refused, Ignatius boldly denounced him for his iniquity.
Bardas attempted to force Saint Ignatius to tonsure the holy Empress Theodora, mother of the emperor, in order to remove her from governance of the realm. Patriarch Ignatius did not consent to this, and also publicly excommunicated Bardas. Bardas had Ignatius tortured for fifteen days to force him to resign, and then they sent him into exile. When the new emperor came to power, Saint Ignatius was recalled from prison and was Patriarch for another ten years. He died in the year 877 in a monastery.
Archimandrite Nicholas in the "Historical and Statistical Description of the Minsk Diocese" reports that under Novogrudok in the place where the Dormition parish church now stands, a men's monastery was founded by Saint Elisha and dedicated to Saint Laurence around 1225.1 He also says that according to the Saint's Life in the Slavonic language, Elisha was the son of Prince Troinat, and occupied a high position at the court of Prince Mindovg. After he became a Christian, he left the court and retired to the wilderness, where he was discovered by an Orthodox monk (Saint Laurence?) with whom Elisha founded the Lavra. Among the brethren was Prince Voyshelk, who lived in a special place, however.
In those days, princes often killed each other and many died themselves at the hands of their treacherous servants or hired killers. It was during those bloody times that Igoumen Elisha was killed by his disciple, his young servant, on the night of October 23, around 1250.
After his death, the Saint's relics were glorified by miracles. According to an ancient legend, it was said that a demoniac was healed after accidentally touching Saint Elisha's relics.
Around 1505, when the Tatars, who had devastated the outskirts of Novogrudok, approached the monastery, the Lord worked another miracle through His Saint. It appeared to the Tatars that the monastery yard was filled with a squad of cavalry, and so they fled in terror.
This miracle was probably the reason for the canonization of the Saint Elisha by Metropolitan Joseph Soltan at a Council held in Vilna in 1514. The Saint's relics, which previously rested in the church ,were hidden in the ground during one of the wars, and after the monastery was burnt, they could not be found again. It is not known whether Saint Elisha was venerated only locally, or if his Feast Day was a general celebration.
Saint Elisha and Saint Laurence are also commemorated on the third Sunday of Pentecost (Synaxis of the Saints of Belorus).
1 Saint Laurence the Recluse of the Kiev Caves, and Bishop of Turov (+ January 29, 1194).
SATURDAY OF THE 5TH WEEK
Averkios, Equal-to-the-Apostles and Wonderworker, Bishop of Hierapolis, Seven Holy Martyred Youths of Ephesus
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 15:58; 16:1-3
Brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. Now concerning the contribution for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that contributions need not be made when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem.
At that time, Jesus entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a slave who was dear to him, who was sick and at the point of death. When he heard of Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his slave. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him earnestly, saying, "He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he built us our synagogue." And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, "Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, 'Go, ' and he goes; and to another, 'Come, ' and he comes; and to my slave, 'Do this, ' and he does it." When Jesus heard this he marveled at him, and turned and said to the multitude that followed him, "I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith." And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave well.
In the spiritual experience of the Russian Church, veneration of the holy Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica is closely linked with the memory of the defense of the nation and Church by the Great Prince of Moscow, Demetrius of the Don (May 19).
Saint Demetrius of the Don smashed the military might of the Golden Horde at the Battle of Kulikovo Field on September 8, 1380 (the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos), set between the Rivers Don and Nepryadva. The Battle of Kulikovo, for which the nation calls him Demetrius of the Don, became the first Russian national deed, rallying the spiritual power of the Russian nation around Moscow. The “Zadonschina,” an inspiring historic poem written by the priest Sophronius of Ryazem (1381), is devoted to this event.
Prince Demetrius of the Don was greatly devoted to the holy Great Martyr Demetrius. In 1380, on the eve of the Battle of Kulikovo, he solemnly transferred from Vladimir to Moscow the most holy object in the Dimitriev cathedral of Vladimir: the icon of the Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica, painted on a piece of wood from the saint’s grave. A chapel in honor of the Great Martyr Demetrius was built at Moscow’s Dormition Cathedral.
The Saint Demetrius Memorial Saturday was established for the churchwide remembrance of the soldiers who fell in the Battle of Kulikovo. This memorial service was held for the first time at the Trinity-Saint Sergius monastery on October 20, 1380 by Saint Sergius of Radonezh, in the presence of Great Prince Demetrius of the Don. It is an annual remembrance of the heroes of the Battle of Kulikovo, among whom are the schemamonks Alexander (Peresvet) and Andrew (Oslyab).
Saint Abercius, Bishop and Wonderworker of Hieropolis lived in the second century in Phrygia. The city of Hieropolis was inhabited by many pagans and very few Christians. The saint prayed to the Lord for the salvation of their souls and that they might be numbered among God’s chosen flock. An angel appeared and bade Saint Abercius to destroy the idols in the pagan temple. He fulfilled the command of God with zeal. Hearing that the idol-worshippers wanted to kill him, the saint went to the place where the people had gathered and openly denounced the failings of the pagans. The pagans tried to seize the saint.
At this moment three demon-possessed youths in the crowd cried out. The people were dumbfounded, as the saint expelled the devils from them by his prayers. Seeing the youths restored to normal, the people of Hieropolis asked Saint Abercius to instruct them in the Christian Faith, and then they accepted Holy Baptism.
After this the saint went to the surrounding cities and villages, healing the sick and preaching the Kingdom of God. With his preaching he made the rounds of Syria, Cilicia, Mesopotamia, he visited Rome and everywhere he converted multitudes of people to Christ. For many years he guarded the Church against heretics, he confirmed Christians in the Faith, he set the prodigal upon the righteous path, he healed the sick and proclaimed the glory of Christ. Because of his great works, Saint Abercius is termed “Equal of the Apostles.”
Saint Abercius returned home to Hieropolis, where he soon rested from his labors. After his death, many miracles took place at his tomb. He wrote his own epitaph, and it was carved on his tombstone, which is now in the Lateran Museum.
The Seven Youths of Ephesus: Maximilian, Iamblicus, Martinian, John, Dionysius, Exacustodianus (Constantine) and Antoninus, lived in the third century. Saint Maximilian was the son of the Ephesus city administrator, and the other six youths were sons of illustrious citizens of Ephesus. The youths were friends from childhood, and all were in military service together.
When the emperor Decius (249-251) arrived in Ephesus, he commanded all the citizens to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. Torture and death awaited anyone who disobeyed. The seven youths were denounced by informants, and were summoned to reply to the charges. Appearing before the emperor, the young men confessed their faith in Christ.
Their military belts and insignia were quickly taken from them. Decius permitted them to go free, however, hoping that they would change their minds while he was off on a military campaign. The youths fled from the city and hid in a cave on Mount Ochlon, where they passed their time in prayer, preparing for martyrdom.
The youngest of them, Saint Iamblicus, dressed as a beggar and went into the city to buy bread. On one of his excursions into the city, he heard that the emperor had returned and was looking for them. Saint Maximilian urged his companions to come out of the cave and present themselves for trial.
Learning where the young men were hidden, the emperor ordered that the entrance of the cave be sealed with stones so that the saints would perish from hunger and thirst. Two of the dignitaries at the blocked entrance to the cave were secret Christians. Desiring to preserve the memory of the saints, they placed in the cave a sealed container containing two metal plaques. On them were inscribed the names of the seven youths and the details of their suffering and death.
The Lord placed the youths into a miraculous sleep lasting almost two centuries. In the meantime, the persecutions against Christians had ceased. During the reign of the holy emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450) there were heretics who denied that there would be a general resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Some of them said, “How can there be a resurrection of the dead when there will be neither soul nor body, since they are disintegrated?” Others affirmed, “The souls alone will have a restoration, since it would be impossible for bodies to arise and live after a thousand years, when even their dust would not remain.” Therefore, the Lord revealed the mystery of the Resurrection of the Dead and of the future life through His seven saints.
The owner of the land on which Mount Ochlon was situated, discovered the stone construction, and his workers opened up the entrance to the cave. The Lord had kept the youths alive, and they awoke from their sleep, unaware that almost two hundred years had passed. Their bodies and clothing were completely undecayed.
Preparing to accept torture, the youths once again asked Saint Iamblicus to buy bread for them in the city. Going toward the city, the youth was astonished to see a cross on the gates. Hearing the name of Jesus Christ freely spoken, he began to doubt that he was approaching his own city.
When he paid for the bread, Iamblicus gave the merchant coins with the image of the emperor Decius on it. He was detained, as someone who might be concealing a horde of old money. They took Saint Iamblicus to the city administrator, who also happened to be the Bishop of Ephesus. Hearing the bewildering answers of the young man, the bishop perceived that God was revealing some sort of mystery through him, and went with other people to the cave.
At the entrance to the cave the bishop found the sealed container and opened it. He read upon the metal plaques the names of the seven youths and the details of the sealing of the cave on the orders of the emperor Decius. Going into the cave and seeing the saints alive, everyone rejoiced and perceived that the Lord, by waking them from their long sleep, was demonstrating to the Church the mystery of the Resurrection of the Dead.
Soon the emperor himself arrived in Ephesus and spoke with the young men in the cave. Then the holy youths, in sight of everyone, lay their heads upon the ground and fell asleep again, this time until the General Resurrection.
The emperor wanted to place each of the youths into a jeweled coffin, but they appeared to him in a dream and said that their bodies were to be left upon the ground in the cave. In the twelfth century the Russian pilgrim Igumen Daniel saw the holy relics of the seven youths in the cave.
There is a second commemoration of the seven youths on August 4. According to one tradition, which entered into the Russian PROLOGUE (of Saints’ Lives), the youths fell asleep for the second time on this day. The Greek MENAION of 1870 says that they first fell asleep on August 4, and woke up on October 22.
There is a prayer of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus in the GREAT BOOK OF NEEDS (Trebnik) for those who are ill and cannot sleep. The Seven Sleepers are also mentioned in the service for the Church New Year, September 1.
The third century century was a time when Christianity experienced significant growth among those who worshipped idols. Many of these were killed simply because they believed in Christ and refused to worship idols.
Saint Alexander was the Bishop of Adrianopolis, who proclaimed the Gospel with great zeal to crowds of idolaters, and his preaching attracted many pagans to Christ. In spite of the persecution of Christians, Bishop Alexander fearlessly converted and baptized many pagans into the divine Faith. This so infuriated the ruler of that place that he ordered the Saint's arrest and subjected him to torture in order to force him to offer sacrifice to the idols. Saint Alexander endured horrible tortures with exemplary patience because he refused to worship the lifeless idols fashioned by men, preferring to offer himself as a sacrifice to Christ, the true God Who said: "Whoever loses his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25).
A soldier named Herakleios, after witnessing Bishop Alexander's fortitude, came to believe in Christ. He was tortured before being beheaded.
By the grace of God, Saint Alexander was healed of the wounds he sustained from being tortured. When this miracle was made known, four women, Theodótē, Glykerίa, Anna, and Elizabeth also confessed their faith in Christ before the archon, refuting the delusion of idolatry. Therefore, they were led to the place of execution, where they were put to death by the sword.
After the other martyrs were killed, Saint Alexander was beheaded with a sword, obtaining an unfading crown from Christ.
The Commemoration of the Deliverance of Moscow From the Poles by the Kazan Icon was established in gratitude for the deliverance of Moscow and all Russia from the incursion of the Polish in 1612. The end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries is known in Russian history as “the Time of Troubles.” The country suffered the onslaught of Polish armies, which scoffed at the Orthodox Faith, plundering and burning churches, cities and villages. Through deceit they succeeded in taking Moscow. In response to the appeal of His Holiness Patriarch Hermogenes (May 12), the Russian people rose up in defense of its native land. From Kazan, the wonderworking icon of the Mother of God was sent to the army headed by Prince Demetrius Pozharsky.
Saint Demetrius of Rostov (September 21), in his Discourse on the Day of Appearance of the Icon of the Mother of God at Kazan (July 8), said:
“The Mother of God delivered from misfortune and woe not only the righteous, but also sinners, but which sinners? those who turn themselves to the Heavenly Father like the Prodigal Son, they make lamentation beating their bosom, like the Publican, they weep at the feet of Christ, like the Sinful Woman washing His feet with her tears, and they offer forth confession of Him, like the Thief upon the Cross. It is such sinners whom the All-Pure Mother of God heeds and hastens to aid, delivering them from great misfortunes and woe.”
Knowing that they suffered such misfortunes for their sins, the whole nation and the militia imposed upon themselves a three-day fast. With prayer, they turned to the Lord and His All-Pure Mother for help. The prayer was heard. Saint Sergius of Radonezh appeared to Saint Arsenius (afterwards Bishop of Suzdal) and said that if Moscow were to be saved, then people must pray to the Most Holy Virgin. Emboldened by the news, Russian forces on October 22, 1612 liberated Moscow from the Polish usurpers. A celebration in honor of the Kazan Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos was established in 1649. Even in our day this icon is especially revered by the Russian Orthodox nation.
The Kazan Icon is also commemorated on July 8.
The Andronicus Icon of the Mother of God was a family icon of the Byzantine emperor Andronicus III. In 1347 he gave the icon to the Monemvasia monastery at Morea in the Peloponnesos. From here the image was sent to Russia in 1839. In 1877 the holy icon was placed in a temple of the Kazan women’s monastery near Vyshnii Volochek. Other Feast days of this icon are May 1 and July 8.
Saints Paul and Theodore of Rostov founded a monastery at the River Ust, not far from Rostov, in honor of the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb (May 2). Saint Theodore (November 28) first came to the site of the future monastery from the Novgorod region. Saint Paul came three years later for ascetic struggles.
Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25 and July 5) came to Rostov, his native region, in 1363. Learning of this, Saints Theodore and Paul went to the great ascetic for spiritual counsel. Saint Sergius visited their wilderness monastery and blessed them to build a church there named for the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb. Already during the construction of this first church, monks began gathering around the ascetics. The igumen, Saint Theodore, joyfully accepted all who came. Soon a second temple was built in honor of the Annunciation of the Theotokos.
Setting the Borisoglebsk monastery in order, Saint Theodore entrusted its direction to Saint Paul. Then he himself took several disciples and withdrew into the Vologda forest. Here at White Lake, near to the confluence of the River Kouzha into it, he founded a monastery and lived an ascetic life for several years. He built a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, set the monastery in order, and appointed an igumen for it.
After receiving a revelation about his impending death, he returned to the Boris and Gleb monastery, where he died on October 22, 1409. Saint Paul directed the two monasteries for a certain time, then he also died at the Monastery of Saints Boris and Gleb.