Great-martyr Barbara and Venerable Father john of Damascus
Galatians 3:23-4:5: Brethren, before faith came, we were confined under the Law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the Law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Luke 13:10-17: At that time, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And there was a woman who had had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, He called her and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrite! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As Jesus said this, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by Him.
Troparion of the Resurrection: O compassionate One, thou didst descend from the heights; thou didst submit to the three-day burial, that thou might deliver us from passion. Thou art our Life and our Resurrection, O Lord, glory to thee.
Troparion of St. Barbara: Let us honor Saint Barbara; for she hath broken the snares of the enemy; and like a sparrow, she, the all-modest maiden, was delivered out of them by the help and weapon of the Cross.
Troparion of St. John of Damascus: O ye faithful come, let us on this day laud with praise the sweet-sounding nightingale that adorned and captivated the Church of Christ with his sweet songs and tuneful, heav’nly hymns, he is the all-wise and eloquent John Damascene, the utmost chief of hymnographers, and a man of God who was filled with every earthly and divine wisdom.
Troparion of the Chains of St. Peter: O Holy Apostle, Peter, thou dost preside over the Apostles by the precious chains which thou didst bear. We venerate them with faith and beseech thee that by thine intercessions we be granted the great mercy.
Kontakion Preparatory for Nativity: Today the Virgin comes unto the cave to give birth in an ineffable manner to the Word before the ages. Rejoice, therefore, O universe, when you hear, and glorify with the angels and the shepherds him who shall appear by his own will as a new babe, being God before the ages.
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE: All services listed on the calendar will be available through streaming and webcast.
Sunday, December 4 (Great-martyr Barbara and Venerable Father John of Damascus)
8:50 a.m. — Orthros (webcast)
9:00 a.m. — Christian Education
10:00 a.m. — Divine Liturgy (webcast)
Monday, December 5 (Sava the Sanctified)
Father Herman off
6:30 p.m. — Great Vespers with Litia and Artoklasia
Tuesday, December 6 (Nicholas the Wonder-worker of Myra)
12:00 p.m. — Santa Lucia Celebration at Coffee Hour
The Eucharist Bread …was offered by the Lasseters for the Divine Liturgy this morning.
Eucharist Bread Schedule:
Eucharist BreadCoffee Hour
December 4 Lasseter Dansereau/Alaeetawi
December 5 (Mon. p.m.) Henderson (Artos) No Coffee Hour
December 11 Algood Lockhart/Karam/Snell
December 18 Schelver Lavric/Skirtech/Dabit
December 24 (Sat. p.m.) Morrris Meadows/Pacurari/Cooper
December 31(Sat. p.m.) R. Root (Artos) No Coffee Hour
Also, please remember that we still need your tithes and offerings which may be placed in the tray that is passed during the Divine Liturgy, in the tithe box at the back of the nave or be mailed to: St. Peter Orthodox Church, P.O. Box 2084, Madison, MS 39130-2084.
Continue to pray for Metropolitan Paul (who is also the brother of our Patriarch) and the Syriac Archbishop John of Aleppo who were abducted while on a humanitarian mission in Syria.
Please remember the following in your prayers: Aidan Milnor, the Milnor family; Lamia Dabit and her family; Mary Greene (Lee and Kh. Sharon’s sister); Jay and Joanna Davis; Fr. Leo and Kh. Be’Be’ Schelver and their family; Kathy Willingham; Marilyn (Kyriake) Snell; Jack and Jill Weatherly; Lottie Dabbs (Sh. Charlotte Algood’s mother), Sh. Charlotte and their family; Maria Costas (currently at St. Catherine’s Village); Reader Basil and Brenda Baker and their family; Buddy Cooper; Georgia and Bob Buchanan.
Schedule for Epistle Readers – Page numbers refer to the Apostolos (book of the Epistles) located on the Chanters’ stand at the front of the nave. Please be sure to use this book when you read.
December 4 Ian Jones Gal. 3:23-4:5 160-161
December 11 Brenda Baker Col. 3:4-11 233
December 18 Walt Wood Heb. 11:9-10, 32-40 348
December 24 (Sat. p.m.) Sam Habeeb Gal. 4:4-7 351
Please remember Fr. Joseph and Kh. Joanna Bittle, and their daughter Abigail, in your prayers.
Instructions for streaming our services can be found on the parish website.
Sunnybrook Children’s Home is beginning a Transitional Home for children aging out of foster care. Their goal is to make sure these children complete high school, and help them pursue further education and develop life skills to allow them to function well in their lives as adults. If you wish to make a donation to this worthwhile endeavor, please make your check out to St. Peter and be sure to mark “Sunnybrook” on the memo line. (This is separate from our annual St. Nicholas Offering.)
Time Change for Liturgy for the Feast of the Nativity: We have been given permission to celebrate the liturgy for the Feast at an earlier time instead of the late-night service we have had in the past. This year Orthros will begin at 5:30 p.m. on December 24th followed by the Divine Liturgy around 6:30 p.m. We will have our festal meal afterwards and hope to be finished around 9:00 – 9:30 p.m.
Winter Camp will be held at Camp St. Thekla on February 17-20, 2023 for ages 12-17. Registration for campers is available November 1 – December 15, 2022.
The DOMSE Annual Clergy and Winter Retreat will be held once more at St. Elias Church in Atlanta. The dates are as follows:
Clergy Retreat January 25-26, 2023
Winter Retreat January 27-28, 2023
* The men of the parish meet for lunch at 11:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of the month.
* The Ladies meet at the church at 10:00 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month to pray the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children on behalf of our children.
* The Ladies meet for lunch on the last Tuesday of the month.
* The Fast of the Nativity began on November 15th and runs through December 24th. As is our custom in the parish during this fast, we will celebrate the Advent Paraklesis service on Wednesday evenings instead of Daily Vespers.
* We will celebrate the Feastday of St. Nicholas the Wonder-worker with Great Vespers with Litia and Artoklasia on Monday evening, December 6th, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
* Workday at the Church on Saturday, December 17th, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
* The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be celebrated with Royal Hours on Friday, December 23rd, beginning at 7:00 p.m. and Festal Orthros followed by the Divine Liturgy and our festal meal, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 24th.
Fasting Discipline for December
The Fast of the Nativity began on November 15th. During this time the traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, eggs, fish, wine or oil) is observed on each day of the week. Note, however, through December 19th there is a katlysis on Tuesdays and Thursdays when wine and oil are permitted, and on Saturdays and Sundays when fish, wine and oil are permitted. There is no fasting of any kind from December 25th through January 4th.
Major Commemorations for December
December 4 Great-martyr Barbara and Venerable Father John of Damascus
December 5 Sava the Sanctified
December 6 Nicholas the Wonder-worker of Myra
December 9 Conception of the Theotokos
December 12 Spyridon the Wonder-worker
December 13 Herman of Alaska
December 15 Hieromartyr Eleutherops
December 20 Ignatios the God-bearer of Antioch
December 25 The Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
December 26 Synaxis of the Theotokos
December 27 Protomartyr Stephen
PARENTS, a problem has arisen due to the nursery room being left messy after Coffee Hour. No food of any kind should be taken into that room. Also, it is necessary for a parent to be in the room whenever their children are in there playing. Thank you for your assistance with this.
Quotable: “Jesus was born in order to die. Indeed, of all humans who ever lived on earth, God’s Son is the only one who entered the world for this purpose. He came to die so that we might live in and through Him. The eternal life which He brings to the world is already present and active in those who receive Him, but it will be manifested fully and completely in a way no one can question, doubt, or resist only at the end of the ages. Christians are those who remember and celebrate the fact that God has visited His people in the person of His Son in order to be crucified and raised. And they are also those who await His Coming, believing that all of God’s promises made in and through Jesus will be actualized in the age to come.”
Father Thomas Hopko, The Winter Pascha
Worship: Sunday, December 11, 2022 (Forefathers of Christ)
Andrew the First- Called Apostle, Froumentios, Archbishop of Abyssina, Alexander the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Mithymna
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 4:9-16
Brethren, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
At that time, John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "Where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! " Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
Saint Sebastian (Dabovich)
No information available at this time.
Apostle Andrew, the Holy and All-Praised First-Called
The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he later brought his own brother, the holy Apostle Peter, to Christ (John 1:35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and he worked with his brother as a fisherman. When the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John began to preach, Saint Andrew became his closest disciple. Declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God, Saint John the Baptist himself sent to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian.
After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Saint Andrew went to the Eastern lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place where the city of Kiev now stands.
He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: “See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise up many churches.” The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother, the Church of Constantinople, with her daughter, the Russian Church.
On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out of their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persistent disciple of Christ continued to preach to people about the Savior. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the Lord worked miracles. By the labors of the holy Apostle Andrew, Christian Churches were established, for which he provided bishops and clergy. The final city to which the Apostle came was the city of Patra, where he was destined to suffer martyrdom.
The Lord worked many miracles through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness and Maximilla and Stratokles, the wife and brother of the governor of Patra, were healed. The miracles accomplished by the Apostle and his fiery speech enlightened almost all the citizens of the city of Patra with the true Faith.
Few pagans remained at Patra, but among them was the prefect of the city, Aegeatos. The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of the Gospel. But even the miracles of the Apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy Apostle with love and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought he might undo Saint Andrew’s preaching if he were to put him to death on the cross.
Saint Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the prefect with joy and with prayer to the Lord, and went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail the saint’s hands and feet, but to tie them to the cross. For two days the apostle taught the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take Saint Andrew down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, said: “Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit.” Then a blazing ray of divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the light faded, the holy Apostle Andrew had already given up his holy soul to the Lord. Maximilla, the wife of the prefect, had the body of the saint taken down from the cross, and buried him with honor.
A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles beside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and Saint Paul’s disciple Saint Timothy.
Saint Frumentius, Archbishop of Abyssinia, Ethiopia
Saint Frumentius, Archbishop of Inda (Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia), was a native of the city of Tyre. While still a child, he came to Abyssinia by divine Providence. Growing up near the imperial court, he became a friend and chief counselor of the Abyssinian emperor, and afterwards tutor to his son, who ascended the throne while still a minor after the death of his father.
With the consent of the new emperor, Saint Frumentius journeyed to his native land and afterwards visited Alexandria and its patriarch, Saint Athanasius the Great (May 2). With the blessing of Saint Athanasius, Frumentius was elevated to become Bishop of Abyssinia and he returned to that country, which had sheltered him from his childhood.
After he returned from his consecration, Saint Frumentius began to perform miracles, bringing many people to the Church. The emperor said to him, “You have lived among us for many years, yet we never saw you perform such wonders. Why is it that you do so now?” The saint replied, “This has nothing to do with me, but is due to the grace of the priesthood.” Then the emperor and many of his subjects received holy Baptism.
Having accomplished the apostolic task of converting the Abyssinian nation to Christ, Saint Frumentius zealously and fruitfully guided the Church entrusted him by God for many years, then peacefully departed to the Lord in great old age.
Entrance of the Apostle Andrew into Georgia
No information available at this time.
Saint Vakhtang Gorgasali, King of Georgia
The holy and right-believing king Vakhtang I ascended the throne of Kartli at the age of fifteen. At that time Kartli was continually being invaded by the Persians from the south and by the Ossetians from the north. The situation was no better in western Georgia: the Byzantines had captured all the lands from Egrisi to Tsikhegoji.
After his coronation, the young King Vakhtang summoned his court and addressed his dedicated servants with great wisdom. He said that the sorrowful circumstances in which the nation had found itself were a manifestation of God’s anger at the sins of the king and the people. He called upon everyone to struggle in unity and selflessness on behalf of the Faith and motherland.
King Vakhtang led a victorious campaign against the Ossetians, freed the captive princess (his older sister), and signed several treaties with the Caucasian mountain tribes to secure their cooperation in the struggle against foreign conquerors. Then he carried out another campaign in western Georgia, freed that region from the Byzantines, reinforced the authority of King Gubaz, and returned in triumph to Kartli.
King Vakhtang was remarkable in faith, wisdom, grace, virtue, and appearance (he towered above all others at a stately seven feet ten inches). He spent many nights in prayer and distributed alms to the poor, in this way dedicating his life to God. King Vakhtang could fight tirelessly in battle. Vested in armor and fully armed, he could carry a war-horse on his shoulders and climb from Mtskheta to the Armazi Fortress in the mountains outside the city. On foot he could outrun a deer. The holy king was judicious in politics, displayed great composure, and preserved a sense of calm even when critical decisions needed to be made.
On the brow of Vakhtang’s military helmet was depicted a wolf, and on the back, a lion. Catching a glimpse of the helmet with the wolf and lion, the Persians would cry out to one another: “Dar’ az gurgsar!” (“Beware of the wolf’s head!”) This was the source of King Vakhtang’s appellation “Gorgasali.”
During King Vakhtang’s reign the Georgian Church was first recognized as autocephalous. When the holy king banished the pagan fire-worshippers from Georgia, he also sent a certain Bishop Michael—who was inclined to the Monophysite heresy, which had been planted in Georgia by the Persians—to Constantinople to be tried by the patriarch. The bishop had disgracefully cursed the king and his army for rising up against the Monophysites. In fact, he was so infuriated that when King Vakhtang approached him to receive his blessing, he kicked him in the mouth and broke several of his teeth.
The patriarch of Constantinople subsequently defrocked Bishop Michael and sent him to a monastery to repent.
More importantly perhaps, the patriarch and the Byzantine emperor then sent to the patriarch of Antioch several clergymen whom King Vakhtang had chosen for consecration. In Antioch the patriarch consecrated twelve of these clergymen as bishops and enthroned a certain Petre as the first Catholicos of Georgia.
Vakhtang fulfilled the will of Holy King Mirian by founding the Georgian Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem. In addition, he replaced a wooden church that had been built in Mtskheta at the time of Saint Nino with a church made of stone. During his reign several new dioceses were founded. King Vakhtang built a cathedral in Nikozi (Inner Kartli) and established a new diocese there, to which he translated the holy relics of the Protomartyr Razhden.
King Vakhtang built fortresses at Tukhari, Artanuji, and Akhiza; founded monasteries in Klarjeti at Artanuji, Mere, Shindobi, and Akhiza; and established many other strongholds, churches, and monasteries as well. He built a new royal residence in Ujarma and laid the foundations of the new Georgian capital, Tbilisi. His political creed consisted of three parts: an equal union of the Georgian Church with the Byzantine Church, national independence, and the unity of the Church and nation.
In the year 502 the sixty-year-old King Vakhtang was obliged to defend his country for the last time. In a battle with the Persians he was fatally wounded when a poisoned arrow pierced him under the arm. Before he died, King Vakhtang summoned the clergy, his family and his court and urged them to be strong in the Faith and to seek death for Christ’s sake in order to gain eternal glory.
All of Georgia mourned the passing of the king. His body was moved from the royal residence in Ujarma to Mtskheta, to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which he had himself built. There he was buried with great honor.
Some fifteen centuries later, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, an addition was built onto the Sioni Patriarchal Cathedral in Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s name, and a cathedral in his honor was founded in the city of Rustavi.
Hierarch Peter, first Catholicos of Georgia
Saint Peter was the first catholicos of Georgia. He led the Church of Kartli from the 460s through the beginning of the 6th century. According to God’s will, Saint Peter inaugurated the dynasty of the chief shepherds of Georgia.
It is written in the biography of Holy King Vakhtang IV Gorgasali that the king was introduced to Peter, a pupil of Saint Gregory the Theologian, during one of his visits to Byzantium, and he became very close to him. At that time he was also introduced to the future catholicos Samuel.
The close spiritual bond of the holy king and the catholicos, combined with their concerted efforts on behalf of the Church, contributed immeasurably to the establishment of friendly political relations between Georgia and Byzantium and the proclamation of the autocephaly of the Georgian Apostolic Church.
Having returned to his own capital, King Vakhtang sent an envoy to Byzantium to find him a wife. He also sent a request that the hierarch Peter be elevated as catholicos and that the priest Samuel be consecrated bishop. He pleaded with the patriarch to hasten the arrival of Catholicos Peter and the twelve bishops with him.
The patriarch of Constantinople approved King Vakhtang’s request to institute the rank of catholicos of Georgia. Since the Georgian Church was still under the jurisdiction of Antioch, Peter and Samuel were sent to the Antiochian patriarch himself to be elevated. The autocephaly of the Georgian Church was proclaimed upon the arrival of the holy fathers in Georgia.
Saint Peter ruled the Church according to the principle of autocephaly and established a form of self-rule that would later help to increase the authority of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church.
The mutual respect and cooperation of the catholicos and the holy king laid the foundations for future, harmonious relations between secular and Church authorities in Georgia. Their example defined the authority of the Church and a national love and respect for the king.
Peter accompanied Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali to war with the Persians in 502. It is written that “the fatally wounded king Vakhtang summoned the catholicos, the queen, his sons and all the nobility.” Saint Peter heard the king’s last confession, granted the remission of his sins, presided at his funeral service, and blessed the prince Dachi (502-514) to succeed him as king of Kartli.
Holy Catholicos Peter led the Georgian Church with great wisdom to the end of his days.
The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church canonized the holy catholicos Peter and the holy catholicos Samuel on October 17, 2002.
Hierarch Samuel, Second Catholicos of Georgia
Saint Samuel ascended the throne of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia in the 6th century, after the holy catholicos Peter.
Like Saint Peter, Samuel was a native of Byzantium. He arrived with Catholicos Peter in Georgia as a bishop, at the invitation of King Vakhtang Gorgasali and with the blessing of the patriarch of Constantinople.
At that time Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta was the residence of the catholicos.
After the repose of Catholicos Peter, Samuel succeeded him, and King Dachi “bestowed upon him the city of Mtskheta, according to the will of King Vakhtang.” Saint Samuel led the Georgian Church during the reigns of King Dachi and his son Bakur. He initiated construction of Tsqarostavi Church in the Javakheti region.
What we know of Saint Samuel’s activity paints him as a pastor who demonstrated great foresight and cared deeply about his flock. He was also a close acquaintance of the holy martyr Queen Shushanik.
Saint Samuel faithfully served the Autocephalous Church of Georgia and labored to strengthen the Christian Faith of the Georgian people to the end of his days.
The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church canonized the holy catholicos Peter and the holy catholicos Samuel on October 17, 2002.
Paramonus, Philumenus, and their 370 Companion Martyrs in Bithynia, Our Righteous Father Nicholas, Archbishop of Thessolonica, Hieromartyr Dionysios, Bishop of Corinth, Phaedrus the Martyr
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS 1:10-12; 2:1-2
Brethren, our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of Christ has come.
At that time, Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of robbers." And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words.
Martyr Paramon and 370 Martyrs in Bithynia
The Holy Martyr Paramon and the 370 Martyrs with him suffered for their faith in Christ in the year 250 during the rule of the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of the Eastern regions, Aquianus, had locked up 370 Christians in prison, urging them to abjure Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols.
They subjected the captives to beatings, hoping by torture and the threat of death to persuade them to renounce Christ and worship the pagan gods. One of the local inhabitants, Paramon by name, openly denounced the cruel governor and confessed his faith in the One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ. They beheaded Saint Paramon after fierce tortures, together with the other 370 martyrs.
Martyr Philoumenus of Ancyra
The Holy Martyr Philoumenus suffered for Christ in the year 274, during the persecution against Christians by the emperor Aurelian (270-275). Saint Philoumenus was a bread merchant in Ancyra. Envious persons reported to the governor Felix that Philoumenus was a Christian, and so he came before a judge.
Saint Philoumenus did not renounce Christ. For this they hammered nails into his hands, feet and head, and they forced him to walk. The holy martyr bravely endured the torments and he died from loss of blood, giving up his soul to God.
No information available at this time.
No information available at this time.
Venerable Acacius of Sinai, who is mentioned in the Ladder
Saint Acacius of Sinai lived during the sixth century and was a novice at a certain monastery in Asia. The humble monk distinguished himself by his patient and unquestioning obedience to his Elder, a harsh and dissolute man. He forced his disciple to toil excessively, starved him with hunger, and beat him without mercy. Despite such treatment, Saint Acacius meekly endured the affliction and thanked God for everything. Saint Acacius died after suffering these torments for nine years.
Five days after Acacius was buried, his Elder told another Elder about the death of his disciple. The second Elder did not believe that the young monk was dead. They went to the grave of Acacius and the second Elder called out: “Brother Acacius, are you dead?” From the grave a voice replied, “No, Father, how is it possible for an obedient man to die?” The startled Elder of Saint Acacius fell down with tears before the grave, asking forgiveness of his disciple.
After this he repented, constantly saying to the Fathers, “I have committed murder.” He lived in a cell near the grave of Saint Acacius, and he ended his life in prayer and in meekness. Saint John Climacus (March 30) mentions Saint Acacius in The Ladder (Step 4:110) as an example of endurance and obedience, and of the rewards for these virtues.
Saint Acacius is also commemorated on July 7.
Venerable Nectarius the Obedient of the Kiev Near Caves
The Venerable Nektarios struggled in the Kiev Caves Monastery during the XII century. Because of his unquestioning obedience to the older brethren, and for the diligence he showed in his labors, Saint Nektarios was called "the Obedient." He reposed peacefully after a life of much toil and many spiritual struggles. He was buried in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony.
Saint Nektarios is also commemorated on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Hieromartyr Abibus, Bishop of Nekresi in Georgia
Saint Abibus of Nekresi was one of the Thirteen Syrian Fathers who arrived in Georgia in the 6th century under the leadership of Saint John of Zedazeni.
With the blessing of his instructor, Saint Abibus began his apostolic activity in Nekresi, a village set among the hills in the eastern region of Kakheti. For his virtuous deeds, Saint Abibus was soon consecrated bishop of his diocese.
According to the chronicle Life of Kartli, Saint Abibus converted not only Georgians but also most of the mountain tribes—including the Dagestani/Didoians—to the Christian Faith. Abounding with apostolic zeal, Saint Abibus journeyed throughout the villages of his diocese, preaching the Truth and calling upon all to strengthen the true Faith.
The time that Saint Abibus was serving as bishop coincided with a dark period of Persian rule in eastern Georgia. The Persians exerted every effort to implant their faith—the worship of fire—and everywhere erected altars where the fire burned without ceasing.
Once in the village of Rekhi the holy hierarch, finding a group of fire-worshipers forcing the Georgian faithful to worship the flame, poured water on their fire to extinguish it. The enraged pagan priests bound Saint Abibus, beat him cruelly, locked him up, and reported the incident to the marzban. The marzban ordered that the bishop be brought to him at once.
Saint Abibus was a friend of the holy wonderworker Simeon the Stylite of the Wonderful Mountain. Saint Simeon received a sign from God of the imminent martyrdom of Saint Abibus and, in order to console him, sent him a letter, an evlogia (a blessing—probably a piece of prosphoron or some other holy object) and a staff. While Abibus was being escorted to the marzban, in the village of Ialdo he met a messenger from Antioch who presented him with Saint Simeon’s gifts. The letter and gifts gladdened the holy hierarch and strengthened him for his martyrdom. Then Saint Abibus was approached by a group of Christians who offered to help him escape, but he graciously declined.
Having arrived in Mtskheta, the saint prayed at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, then requested that the guards permit him to meet with Saint Shio of Mgvime. The Persians granted his request, and the spiritual brothers greeted one another with love and prayed together to the Lord.
Saint Abibus was brought before the dread marzban and asked how he could dare raise his hand against the Persian god. He replied with complete composure, saying, “I did not kill any god; rather I extinguished a fire. Fire is not a god, but a part of nature, which is created by God. Your fire was burning wood, and a little water was enough to extinguish it. The water turned out to be stronger. Your fury amazes me. Isn’t it humiliating to call something a god which has no soul?”
Furious at this response, the marzban ordered the holy hierarch’s execution.
The executioners mercilessly beat the blessed Abibus and shattered his skull with stones. Then they dragged his body through the city, cast it to the beasts, and assigned a guard to ensure that the Christians did not come to steal it. Nevertheless, that night the priests and monks of Rekhi came, took the body of the holy martyr, and buried it with great honor at Samtavisi Monastery (located midway between Mtskheta and Gori).
Many miraculous healings have taken place over the grave of Saint Abibus. During the rule of Prince Stepanoz of Kartli, the incorrupt relics of Saint Abibus were translated from Samtavisi to Samtavro Monastery in Mtskheta, according to the decree of Catholicos Tabori. They were buried under the holy altar at Samtavro Church.
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Stephen the New, Irenarchos & his Companion Martyrs at Sebaste, Auxentius, 16 Martyrs of Tiberioupolis
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS 1:1-10
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering – since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed.
At that time, as Jesus was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Monastic Martyr and Confessor Stephen the New
The Monk Martyr and Confessor Stephen the New was born in 715 at Constantinople into a pious Christian family. His parents, having two daughters, prayed the Lord for a son. The mother of the new-born Stephen took him to the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos and dedicated him to God.
During the reign of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741) there was a persecution against the holy icons and against those venerating them. With the support of the emperor, the adherents of the Iconoclast heresy seized control of the supreme positions of authority in the Empire and in the Church. Persecuted by the powers of this world, Orthodoxy was preserved in monasteries far from the capital, in solitary cells, and in the brave and faithful hearts of its followers.
The Orthodox parents of Saint Stephen, grieved by the prevailing impiety, fled from Constantinople to Bithynia, and they gave over their sixteen-year-old son in obedience to the monk John, who labored in asceticism in a solitary place on the Mount of Saint Auxentius. Saint Stephen dwelt with the venerable monk John for more than fifteen years, devoting himself totally to this spirit-bearing Elder, and learning monastic activity from him. Here Stephen received the news that his father was dead, and his mother and sisters had been tonsured as nuns.
After a certain time his teacher John also died. With deep sorrow Saint Stephen buried his venerable body, and continued with monastic effort in his cave by himself. Soon monks began to come to the ascetic, desiring to learn from him the virtuous and salvific life, and a monastery was established, with Saint Stephen as the igumen. At forty-two years of age Stephen left the monastery he founded, and he went to another mountain, on whose summit he dwelt in deep seclusion in a solitary cell. But here also a community of monks soon gathered, seeking the spiritual guidance of Saint Stephen.
Leo the Isaurian was succeeded by Constantine Copronymos (741-775), a fiercer persecutor of the Orthodox, and an even more zealous iconoclast. The emperor convened an Iconoclast Council, attended by 358 bishops from the Eastern provinces. However, except for Constantine, the Archbishop of Constantinople, illegitimately raised to the patriarchal throne by the power of Copronymos, not one of the other patriarchs participated in the wicked doings of this Council, thus making it less likely to style itself as “ecumenical.” This council of heretics, at the instigation of the emperor and the archbishop, described icons as idols, and pronounced an anathema on all who venerated icons in the Orthodox manner, and it described icon veneration as heresy.
Meanwhile, the monastery of Mount Auxentius and its igumen became known in the capital. They told the emperor about the ascetic life of the monks, about their Orthodox piety, about the igumen Stephen’s gift of wonderworking, and of how Saint Stephen’s fame had spread far beyond the region of the monastery, and that the name of its head was accorded universal respect and love. The saint’s open encouragement of icon veneration and the implied rebuff to the persecutors of Orthodoxy within the monastery of Mount Auxentius especially angered the emperor. Archbishop Constantine realized that in the person of Saint Stephen he had a strong and implacable opponent of his iconoclastic intentions, and he plotted how he might draw him over to his side or else destroy him.
They tried to lure Saint Stephen into the Iconoclast camp, at first with flattery and bribery, then by threats, but in vain. Then they slandered the saint, accusing him of falling into sin with the nun Anna. But his guilt was not proven, since the nun courageously denied any guilt and died under torture and beatings. Finally, the emperor gave orders to lock up the saint in prison, and to destroy his monastery. Iconoclast bishops were sent to Saint Stephen in prison, trying to persuade him of the dogmatic correctness of the Iconoclast position. But the saint easily refuted all the arguments of the heretics and he remained true to Orthodoxy.
Then the emperor ordered that the saint be exiled on one of the islands in the Sea of Marmora. Saint Stephen settled into a cave, and there also his disciples soon gathered. After a certain while the saint left the brethren and took upon himself the exploit of living atop a pillar. News of the stylite Stephen, and the miracles worked by his prayers, spread throughout all the Empire and strengthened the faith and spirit of Orthodoxy in the people.
The emperor gave orders to transfer Saint Stephen to prison on the island of Pharos, and then to bring him to trial. At the trial, the saint refuted the arguments of the heretics sitting in judgment upon him. He explained the dogmatic essence of icon veneration, and he denounced the Iconoclasts because in blaspheming icons, they blasphemed Christ and the Mother of God. As proof, the saint pointed to a golden coin inscribed with the image of the emperor. He asked the judges what would happen to a man who threw the coin to the ground , and then trampled the emperor’s image under his feet. They replied that such a man would certainly be punished for dishonoring the image of the emperor. The saint said that an even greater punishment awaited anyone who would dishonor the image of the King of Heaven and His Saints, and with that he spat on the coin, threw it to the ground, and began to trample it underfoot.
The emperor gave orders to take the saint to prison, where already there were languishing 342 Elders, condemned for the veneration of icons. In this prison Saint Stephen spent eleven months, consoling the imprisoned. The prison became like a monastery, where the usual prayers and hymns were chanted according to the Typikon. The people came to the prison in crowds and asked Saint Stephen to pray for them.
When the emperor learned that the saint had organized a monastery in prison, where they prayed and venerated holy icons, he sent two of his own servants, twin-brothers, to beat the saint to death. When these brothers went to the prison and beheld the face of the monk shining with a divine light, they fell down on their knees before him, asking his forgiveness and prayers, then they told the emperor that his command had been carried out. But the emperor learned the truth and he resorted to yet another lie. Informing his soldiers that the saint was plotting to remove him from the throne, he sent them to the prison. The holy confessor himself came out to the furious soldiers, who seized him and dragged him through the streets of the city. They then threw the lacerated body of the martyr into a pit, where they were wont to bury criminals.
On the following morning a fiery cloud appeared over Mount Auxentius, and then a heavy darkness descended upon the capital, accompanied by hail, which killed many people.
Monastic Martyrs and Confessors Auxentius, Basil, Gregory, another Gregory, John, Andrew, Peter and many others
The Holy Martyrs Stephen, Basil, Gregory, another Gregory, John, Andrew, Peter, and many others suffered for the veneration of holy icons with the Monk Martyr Stephen the New, with whom they languished together in prison. After his martyric death, they were executed.
Saint Anna was a noblewoman who sold all her possessions and gave the money to the poor. She received the monastic tonsure from Saint Stephen the New while he was living on Mount Auxentius in Bithynia. He sent her to live in the women’s monastery called Trichinarion (Community of hairshirt-wearers).
When the iconoclasts tried to turn Saint Stephen from venerating the holy icons, they tried flattery, bribery, and threats, but all their efforts were in vain. Then they accused him of visiting the Trichinarion Monastery at night and falling into sin with the nun Anna. Although her own maidservant testified against her (she was promised her freedom and marriage to a nobleman if she did), Saint Anna denied any guilt.
The emperor’s soldiers came to the monastery and seized Saint Anna and brought her before him, but she refused to lie about Saint Stephen. Therefore Emperor Constantine threw her into a dungeon in Constantinople.
The next morning the emperor sat in a public building with an assembled crowd, and had Saint Anna brought to his presence. Since she insisted that both she and Saint Stephen were innocent, the emperor had her stripped naked in the sight of all. During her interrogation, she remained silent. Meanwhile, her maidservant falsely swore that Saint Stephen had sinned with her mistress.
Angered by her refusal to speak, the emperor had Saint Anna stretched out on the ground, where soldiers beat her with rods. During this torment, she said, “I have never sinned with Stephen. Lord, have mercy.” The soldiers continued to beat her until she was almost dead.
The emperor returned to his palace, leaving orders that Saint Anna be imprisoned in one of the city’s abandoned monasteries. There she departed to the Lord, receiving from Him the twin crowns of virginity and martyrdom.
Martyr Irenarchus and Seven Women Martyrs at Sebaste
The Holy Martyr Irenarchus was from Sebaste, Armenia, and lived during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). When he was young, he would minister to the martyrs in prison after they were tortured.
He once saw seven women being tortured for Christ, who bravely endured their torments. Saint Irenarchus marveled at this because they showed great courage in standing up to the tyrant, even though they were weak by nature.
Illumined by divine grace, Saint Irenarchus confessed Christ. First he endured trials by fire and water, then he was beheaded with the seven holy women in the year 303.
Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov
Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov, in the world John, was the son of Stephen (brother of Saint Sergius of Radonezh), who occupied an important post under Prince Andrew of Radonezh. Left a widower, Stephen became a monk, and together with his twelve-year-old son, he went to the monastery to Saint Sergius, who foreseeing the ascetic life of the child John, tonsured him with the name Theodore on the Feast of Saint Theodore the Hair-Shirt Wearer (April 20).
After Theodore attained an appropriate age, he was given a blessing to be ordained to the priesthood. With the blessing of Saint Sergius, Saint Theodore built a church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and founded a monastery on the banks of the River Moskva, at the place called Simonovo. Soon the monastery began to attract a throng of people. Saint Theodore built a cell five versts from the Moscow Kremlin, and pursued new ascetical labors, and here disciples gathered around him. Saint Sergius, visiting this place, blessed the founding of a monastery, and Metropolitan Alexis blessed the construction of a church in the name of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos at Novoe Simonovo, which also had its foundations laid in 1379. The old Simonov monastery remained the burial place of monks.
Because of his virtuous life and strict asceticism, Saint Theodore became known in Moscow. The Metropolitan Saint Alexis elevated him to the rank of igumen, and Great Prince Demetrius of the Don chose him as his father confessor. Saint Theodore journeyed to Constantinople several times on church matters for the Russian Metropolitan. On his first journey in 1384, Patriarch Nilus made him an archimandrite. The Simonov monastery was put directly under the Patriarch, thus becoming stavropegial. In 1387, he was consecrated archbishop and occupied the See of Rostov.
Being the igumen, and then the archimandrite of the Simonov monastery, and despite being occupied with churchly matters, Saint Theodore stalwartly guided those in the monastic life and counted many great and famous ascetics among his disciples. Saints Cyril (June 9) and Therapon (May 27), the future founders of two famous White Lake monasteries, were tonsured at the Simonov monastery. Saint Theodore occupied himself with iconography, and he adorned with icons of his own painting both the Simonov monastery, and many Moscow churches.
At Rostov, Archbishop Theodore founded the Nativity of the Virgin monastery.
The blessed death of the saint occurred on November 28, 1394. His relics are in the Rostov Dormition cathedral.
Saint Theodore is also commemorated on May 23.
Martyr Timothy and his companions, at Tiberiopolis
Saint Timothy was a bishop who was imprisoned by Julian the Apostate (331-363) together with his fellow bishop Theodore; the priests Timothy, Peter, John, Sergius, Theodore, Nikēphóros; the deacons Basil and Thomas; the monks Hierotheus, Daniel, Chariton, Socrates, Comasius; and Etymasius. They all suffered martyrdom in Tiberiopolis in 361.
13th Sunday of Luke, James the Great Martyr of Persia, Nathaniel of Nitria & Pinouphrios of Egypt, the Righteous, Gregory of Sinai and his disciple Gerasimos, Arsenios of Rhaxos, James the Wonderworker, Bishop of Rostov
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 2:14-22
Brethren, Christ is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
At that time, a ruler came to Jesus and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.' " And he said, "All these I have observed from my youth." And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich. Jesus looking at him said, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Those who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?" But he said, "What is impossible with men is possible with God.
Greatmartyr James the Persian
The Holy Great Martyr James the Persian (the Sawn-Asunder) was born in the fourth century into a pious Christian family, both wealthy and illustrious. His wife was also a Christian, and the couple raised their children in piety, inspiring in them a love for prayer and the Holy Scriptures. James occupied a high position at the court of the Persian emperor Izdegerd (399-420) and his successor Barakhranes (420-438). But on one of the military campaigns James, seduced by the emperor’s beneficence, was afraid to acknowledge himself a Christian, and so he offered sacrifice to idols with the emperor.
Learning of this, James’ mother and wife wrote him a letter, in which they rebuked him and urged him to repent. Receiving the letter, James realized the gravity of his sin. Faced with the horror of being cut off not only from his family, but also from God Himself, he began to weep loudly, imploring the Lord for forgiveness.
His fellow-soldiers, hearing him pray to the Lord Jesus Christ, reported this to the emperor. Under interrogation, Saint James bravely confessed his faith in the one True God. No amount of urging by the emperor could make him renounce Christ. The emperor then ordered the saint to be put to death.
They began to cut off his fingers and his toes one by one, then his hands and his feet, and then his arms and legs. During the prolonged torture Saint James offered prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord, Who had granted him the possibility of redemption from his sins by enduring these terrible torments. Finally, the martyr was beheaded. Christians gathered up the pieces of his body and buried them with great reverence.
Venerable Palladius of Thessalonica
Born in Thessaloniki, he contended in asceticism in Alexandria at the end of the VI and the beginning of the VII century. His Service is sung at Compline.
This Saint should not be confused with the fourth century Saint Palladius of Galatia (January 28), the author of the Lausiac History, which contains the Lives of the Egyptian ascetics.
Saint James the Wonderworker, Bishop of Rostov
According to a local tradition, Saint James received monastic tonsure at Kopyrsk monastery on the River Ukhtoma, 80 kilometers from Rostov. For a long time he was igumen of this monastery, and in the year 1385 he was made Bishop of Rostov when Pimen was Metropolitan and Demetrius of the Don was Great Prince.
In defending a woman condemned to execution, the saint followed the example of the Savior, inviting whoever considered himself to be without sin to cast the first stone at her (John 8:7), and he then sent the woman forth to repentance. The Prince and the Rostov nobles, disgruntled over the bishop’s judgment, threw Saint James out of Rostov.
Leaving the city, the saint proceeded to Lake Nero, spread his bishop’s mantiya on the water, and having signed himself with the Sign of the Cross, he sailed off on it as if on a boat, guided by the grace of God. Traveling one and a half versts from the city, Saint James emerged on shore at the site of his future monastery. The prince and the people, repenting their actions, besought the saint’s forgiveness. The gentle bishop forgave them, but he did not return again.
On the shore of Lake Nero he made himself a cell and built a small church in honor of the Conception of the Most Holy Theotokos by Righteous Anna, marking the beginning of the Conception-Saint James monastery. Saint James died there on November 27, 1392.
There is a story that Saint James fought against the Iconoclast heresy of a certain fellow named Markian, who appeared in Rostov toward the end of the fourteenth century. The more ancient Lives of our saint do not mention this, and even the great hagiographer Saint Demetrius of Rostov was unaware of it. More recent hagiographers were wont to draw material from the Service to Saint James of Rostov. But the Service itself, preserved in copies from the sixteenth-seventeenth centuries, was compiled by borrowing from the Service to Saint Bucolus (February 6), who struggled against the first century heretic Marcian, and from the Service to Saint Stephen of Surozh (December 15), who contended against the emperor Constantine Kopronymos (741-775).
Saint James is also commemorated on May 23.
Uncovering of the relics of Saint Vsévolod (Gabriel) of Pskov
No information available at this time.
17 Monastic Martyrs in India
These Christian monks are mentioned in The Lives of Saints Barlaam and Ioasaph (November 19), by Saint John of Damascus (December 4). They suffered in the IV century when King Abenner ruled India. He hated Christians because they were converting his people to Christ, and some of them even became monks. The King issued a decree ordering all Christians to renounce their Faith at once, threatening to torture and kill them if they did not comply. He had a special hatred for the monks, and persecuted them without mercy. Some Christians, unable to endure the torments, submitted to the King's decree, but the monks rebuked him for his wickedness. Some of them fled into the deserts and mountains, while others chose martyrdom.
When his son Ioasaph was born, King Abenner rejoiced and prepared a feast for his people. Among the guests were fifty-five astrologers, who were asked to predict the child's future. They spoke in general terms of great riches and power, saying that he would surpass all who had ruled before him. One of them, the wisest of all, said that the child would not succeed Abenner, but instead he would enter a better and greater kingdom. Moreover, the astrologer said that Ioasaph would become a Christian.
When the King heard this he was angry and sorrowful, and took steps to prevent this from happening. He built a huge palace, and kept his son there. He would not permit anyone to approach the child, except for a few carefully chosen instructors. He charged them not to speak to the Prince about unpleasant topics such as death, old age, sickness, poverty, etc. He wanted them to speak to Ioasaph only about pleasant things. Above all, he did not want his son to hear anything about Christ or His doctrines.
When the King learned that there were still some monks left, he commanded heralds to go into the city and throughout the countryside and to proclaim that after three days, no monk would be allowed to live there. If any monks were discovered after that time, they would be executed.
Some years later, the King sent his chief counsellor Arachḗs into the wilderness to search for Saint Barlaam, who had baptized Prince Ioasaph. They searched the deserts and remote places without finding him. They did happen to encounter seventeen monks, however, walking at the foot of a mountain. They were seized by the soldiers, and Arachḗs questioned them about Barlaam, but the monks refused to reveal where he was. Arachḗs said that if they did not bring Barlaam to him, they would die.
The monks replied that they did not fear death, so he tortured them. When he saw that nothing would make them talk, he decided to bring them to the King. Several days afterward, they appeared before Abenner, who subjected them to further torments.
Seeing that nothing would induce them to betray Barlaam, the King had their eyes gouged out, and then cut off their arms and legs. All the while, the monks exhorted one another to accept death for the sake of Christ, and so they received their unfading crowns of glory from the Lord.
Saint John of Damascus compares the seventeen monastic martyrs to the seven holy Maccabees of the Old Testament (August 1).
Venerable Romanós of Cilicia
Saint Romanós was from the city of Rosón in Cilicia, but he spent his anchoritic life in strict fasting in a cave near Antioch during the V century. There, at the foot of a mountain, he built a small cell, in which he struggled as an ascetic. He wore heavy chains under his hair shirt, and for many years he did not light a fire in his cell.
Because of his most holy life, God granted him the grace of working miracles. Reports of his holiness attracted great crowds of the faithful to him, who asked for his blessing. The Saint healed several persons who suffered from grave illnesses, and through his prayers, many infertile women were able to give birth to healthy children.
The charisma1 of working miracles did not make him proud. Quite the contrary! The Saint often quoted the words of Saint Paul: "Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12). He also said that it is no great thing to perform miracles, but rather to do works of righteousness and to keep God's commandments.
Thus, after leading a God-pleasing life, Saint Romanós reposed in peace. He is also commemorated on February 9.
Saint Romanós is one of many Saints whose intercession we seek for deliverance from childlessness and barreness. Some of the others are: Saint Stylianos (November 26), Saint Hypatios the Igoumen of Rufinianus in Chalcedon († March 31, 446), Saints Theodore and John (July 12).
1 χάρισματα = Extraordinary powers given to certain individuals by God, enabling them to serve the Church by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Repose of Venerable Diodorus, Abbot of the Yuriev Monastery, Solovki
No information available at this time.
Commemoration of the Weeping Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” at Novgorod
The Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Sign”, depicts the Most Holy Theotokos with prayerfully uplifted hands, and the Divine Infant is at Her bosom in a mandorla (or sphere). This depiction of the Mother of God is regarded as one of the very first of Her iconographic images. In the mausoleum of Saint Agnes at Rome is a depiction of the Mother of God with hands raised in prayer with the Infant Christ sitting upon Her knees. This depiction is ascribed to the fourth century. There is also an ancient Byzantine icon of the Mother of God “Nikopea” from the sixth century, where the Most Holy Theotokos is depicted seated upon a throne and holding in Her hands an oval shield with the image of the Savior Emmanuel.
Icons of the Mother of God, known as “The Sign”, appeared in Russia during the eleventh-twelfth centuries, and were so called because of a miraculous sign from the Novgorod Icon in the year 1170.
In that year the allied forces of Russian appanage princes, headed by a son of Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky of Suzdal, marched to the very walls of Great Novgorod. For the people of Novgorod, their only remaining hope was that God would help them. Day and night they prayed, beseeching the Lord not to forsake them. On the third night Bishop Elias of Novgorod heard a wondrous voice commanding that the icon of the Most Holy Theotokos be taken out of the church of the Savior’s Transfiguration on Ilina street, and carried about on the city walls.
When they carried the icon, the enemy fired a volley of arrows at the procession, and one of them pierced the iconographic face of the Mother of God. Tears trickled from Her eyes, and the icon turned its face towards the city. After this divine Sign an inexpressible terror suddenly fell upon the enemy. They began to strike one another, and taking encouragement from the Lord, the people of Novgorod fearlessly gave battle and won the victory.
In remembrance of the miraculous intercession of the Queen of Heaven, Archbishop Elias established a feastday in honor of the Sign of the Mother of God, which the Russian Church celebrates to the present day. The Athonite hieromonk Pachomius the Logothete, who was present at the festal celebration of the Icon in Russia, composed two Canons for this Feast.
On certain Novgorod Icons of the Sign, the miraculous occurrences of the year 1170 were also depicted. For 186 years afterwards, the wonderworking icon remained in the Savior-Transfiguration church on Ilina street. In 1356 it was transferred to a church built in Novgorod in honor of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “of the Sign,” which became the cathedral church of the monastery of the Sign.
Numerous copies of the Sign Icon are known throughout Russia. Many of them were also glorified by miracles in their local churches, and were then named for the place of the appearance of the miracle. Similar copies of the Sign Icon are the icons of Dionysievo-Glushets, Abalaka (July 20), Kursk, Seraphim-Ponetaev and others.
“Kursk-Root” Icon of the Mother of God
The Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Sign” is one of the most ancient icons of the Russian Church. In the thirteenth century during the Tatar invasion, when all the Russian realm was put to the extremest tribulation, the city of Kursk, ravaged by the Horde of Batu, fell into desolation.
One day in the environs of the city a hunter noticed the ancient icon, lying on a root face downwards to the ground. The hunter lifted it and saw that the image of the icon was similar to the Novgorod “Znamenie” Icon. With the appearance of this icon immediately there appeared its first miracle. Just as the hunter lifted up the holy icon from the earth, right then, at that place where the icon lay, gushed up strongly a spring of pure water. This occurred on September 8, 1259. The hunter decided not to leave the icon in the forest and settled on as a resting place an ancient small chapel, in which he put the newly-appeared image of the Theotokos. Soon inhabitants of the city of Ryla heard about this, and being in location not far away, they began to visit the place of the appearance for venerating the new holy image.
They transferred the icon to Ryla and put it in a new church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. But the icon did not long remain there. It disappeared and returned to its former place of appearance. The inhabitants of Ryla repeatedly took it and carried it to the city, but the icon incomprehensibly returned to its former place. Everyone then realized, that the Theotokos preferred the place of appearance of Her Icon. The special help granted by the Mother of God through this icon is bound up with important events in Russian history: with the war of liberation of the Russian nation during the Polish-Lithuanian incursion in 1612, and the 1812 Fatherland war. From the icon several copies were made, which also were glorified.
Icon of the Mother of God of Abalaka
The Abalaka Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Sign” was painted by Matthew, a protodeacon of the Tobolsk cathedral, in honor of Sophia (the Wisdom of God), in fulfillment of a vow by a paralytic peasant Euthymius to rebuild the church at the Abalaka monastery of the Mother of God “of the Sign.” This church was built in 1637 after the Mother of God, accompanied by Saint Nicholas and Saint Mary of Egypt, appeared to the pious widow Maria. After the temple’s Icon “of the Sign” was painted, the paralytic Euthymius was completely healed. Many healings took place during the solemn transfer of the icon to the Abalaka church.
In general appearance, the Abalaka Icon resembles the Novgorod Icon of the Sign, but with this distinction: on the Abalaka Icon, Saint Nicholas and Saint Mary of Egypt stand before the Most Holy Theotokos. Saint Basil of Mangazeya (March 23) is also depicted on this icon. Many wonderworking copies of the Abalaka Icon are venerated throughout Siberia.
The Abalaka Icon “Of the Sign” is also commemorated on July 20.
Saint Theodosius of Trnovo
No information available at this time.
Icon of the Mother of God of Tsarskoe Selo
The Tsarskoe Selo Sign Icon of the Mother of God an ancient wonderworking icon, was brought by way of a present to Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich by one of the Eastern Patriarchs, supposedly by Saint Athanasius of Constantinople (October 28). Tsar Peter I transferred the icon, together with other sacred items from Moscow, to his new capital city.
In the year 1747, a church was built for the icon at Tsarskoe Selo. Moliebens were served before it during times of national catastrophe, for example, during a plague in 1771, and of cholera in 1831. Through the intercession of the Mother of God, the terrible epidemics only barely touched Tsarskoe Selo. Prayers before the Tsarskoe Selo Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “of the Sign,” were also offered entreating the Mother of God’s help during fires and shipwrecks.
On the icon, Cherubim shade the head of the Mother of God. More recent copies of the icon depict the Apostle Peter, Saints Zachariah, Alexis the Man of God, and Righteous Elizabeth.
“Seraphim-Ponetaevka” Icon of the Mother of God
The Seraphim-Ponetaevka Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign” was painted in the year 1879 by the nuns of the Seraphim-Ponetaevka women’s monastery, not far from Arzamas, near the village of Ponetaevka. The monastery was named after Saint Seraphim of Sarov by the founder of the monastery, a sister of the Diveyevo community.
Six years after it was painted, the icon became known for its numerous miracles and became the chief holy item of the monastery. When the sisters were praying during the services, they noticed distinct changes in the countenance of the Mother of God: Her All-Pure face became bright and life-like. Numerous pilgrims thronged to the icon, and many were healed from blindness and crippling. In all, about seventy instances of healing were noted.
Alypius the Stylite of Adrianopolis, Nikon Metanoeite, Stylianos the Monk of Paphlagonia, Akakios of Sinai who is mentioned in The Ladder, George the New Martyr of Chios, Innocent of Irkutsk
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 11:1-6
Brethren, I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough. I think that I am not in the least inferior to these superlative apostles. Even if I am unskilled in speaking, I am not in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.
The Lord said to his disciples, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
The Righteous Gideon
The Righteous Gideon, whose name means “destroyer,” appears in chapters 6-8 of Judges. He was the son of Joash the Abiezrite. One day, as he was beating out wheat in the wine press, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and commanded him to deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Gideon gathered an army of men from various towns to fight the Midianites, then asked God to give him a sign that he would be able to deliver Israel. First, he placed a fleece of wool on the floor of the threshing room. Then he said, “If there is dew on the fleece alone, and if the ground is dry, then I shall know that thou wilt deliver Israel by my hand, as thou hast said.”
The next morning Gideon got up early and squeezed the fleece, wringing out enough water to fill a bowl. Then he asked God to let the fleece remain dry and to let there be dew on the ground. When Gideon saw that this had been done, the powerful warrior of Manasseh led an army of 300 men to victory over the Midianites.
The people entreated him to be their ruler, and also his son and grandson, but he would not agree to this, because the Lord was their ruler. However, Gideon was a Judge for forty years, and during that time the land had rest.
The Righteous Gideon is referenced in Ode 9 of the second Canon for the Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Let us all magnify the radiant cloud, in which the Master of all descended, as dew from Heaven upon the fleece” (Judges 6:37). He is also mentioned in Hebrews 11:32 with others “who through faith conquered kingdoms.”
Venerable Alypius the Stylite of Adrianopolis
Saint Alypius the Stylite was born in the city of Adrianopolis in Paphlagonia. His mother, a Christian, was widowed early, and she sent her son to be educated by Bishop Theodore. She distributed her substance to the poor, then began to live an ascetic life near the church as a deaconess.
Saint Alypius, from his early years, wanted to devote his life to God and yearned for the solitary life, although Bishop Theodore would not give him permission to do so. Once, when Saint Alypius was accompanying his bishop to Constantinople, the holy Martyr Euphemia (September 16) appeared to him in a vision, summoning Saint Alypius to return to Adrianopolis and found a church in her name.
With contributions offered by believers in Adrianopolis, Saint Alypius did build a church in the name of the holy Martyr Euphemia, on the site of a dilapidated pagan temple infested by legions of devils. Beside the church, under the open sky, the saint erected a pillar over a pagan tomb. For fifty-three years Saint Alypius struggled upon the pillar, praying to God and teaching those who came to him.
The demons which infested the pagan cemetery fell upon the ascetic by night and pelted him with stones. Saint Alypius, wanted nothing to stand in the way of the attacks of the spirits of darkness, then even took down the boards that served him as a roof, protecting him from the rain and wind. In the face of the saint’s conquering steadfastness, the demons forever fled the place, which had been sanctified by his deed of voluntary martyrdom.
Fourteen years before his death, Saint Alypius was no longer able to stand. He was compelled to lie on his side because of the weakness of his legs, and endured grievous sufferings with humble gratitude. Around the saint’s pillar two monasteries sprang up: a men’s monastery on the one side, and a women’s monastery on the other. Saint Alypius introduced strict monastic rules for both monasteries and he directed both monasteries until his death. Saint Alypius reposed in the year 640, at age 118. The body of the venerable stylite was buried in the church he founded in honor of the holy Martyr Euphemia. The relics of the saint of God healed many of those who came in faith.
Dedication of the Church of the Greatmartyr George at Kiev
The Consecration of the Church of the Great Martyr George at Kiev: Beginning with the holy Prince Vladimir (July 15), it was the pious custom of Russian princes to build a church in honor of their patron saint. Thus, Saint Vladimir (in Baptism Basil) built at Kiev and Vyshgorod temples dedicated to Saint Basil the Great (January 1).
Prince Izyaslav I (1054-1068) (in Baptism Demetrius) built a church and monastery at Kiev in the name of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrius (October 26). Prince Yaroslav the Wise (in Baptism George) started to build a church and men’s monastery in honor of his patron saint, the Holy Great Martyr George (April 23). He also built a church named for his wife’s patron saint, the Holy Great Martyr Irene (May 5). The temple in honor of the Great Martyr George was consecrated by Saint Hilarion, Metropolitan of Kiev (October 21), and a yearly commemoration was established in honor of this event.
Repose of Saint Innocent, first Bishop of Irkutsk
Saint Innocent, Bishop of Irkutsk, (in the world John) was descended from the noble Kulchitsky family. His parents moved from Volhynia to the Chernigov region in the mid-seventeenth century. The saint was born in about the year 1680, and educated at the Kiev Spiritual Academy. He accepted monastic tonsure in 1710 and was appointed an instructor at the Moscow Slavonic-Greek-Latin Academy as prefect and professor of theology.
In 1719 Saint Innocent transferred to the Saint Peterburg Alexander Nevsky Lavra, and was appointed chief naval chaplain. In 1720 he served as vice-regent of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
On February 14, 1721, hieromonk Innocent was consecrated as Bishop of Pereyaslavl and appointed to the Peking Spiritual Mission in China. But the Chinese government refused to allow him to enter the country, because the Senate Commission on External Affairs had indiscretely characterized him as “a spiritual personage, a great lord.” The saint was compelled to spend three years at Selingin on the Chinese border, suffering much deprivation because of the uncertainty of his position, and grief from the disarray of the civil government in Siberia. Diplomatic blunders of the Russian Mission in China by Graf Raguzinsky, and intrigues by the Irkutsk archimandrite Anthony Platkovsky led to the appointment of Archimandrite Anthony in China. By decree of the Most Holy Synod Saint Innocent was named in 1727 to be Bishop of Irkutsk and Nerchinsk. And so he entered into the governance of the newly-formed dioceses.
The proximity of the Chinese border, the expanse and sparsely-settled dioceses, the great number of diverse nationalities (Buryat, Mongol, and others), mostly unenlightened by the Christian Faith, the lack of roads and the poverty—all this made Saint Innocent’s pastoral work burdensome and his life full of deprivations. Through a strange oversight of the Senate, he did not receive any money until the time of his death, and he endured extreme want. In these difficult conditions of scant funds, the Irkutsk Ascension monastery still maintained two schools opened under him, one Mongol and the other Russian. The constant concern of the saint was directed towards the schools: the selection of worthy teachers, and providing the necessary books, clothing and other provisions for students.
The saint toiled tirelessly at organizing the diocese, and strengthening its spiritual life. His many sermons, pastoral letters and directives bear witness to this. In his work and deprivations Saint Innocent found spiritual strength, humility, and insight.
In the spring of 1728, the Baikal region began to suffer a drought. Famine from a poor grain harvest had threatened the diocese already back in 1727. With the blessing of the holy hierarch, in May within the churches of Irkutsk and the Irkutsk region they began to include a Molieben for an end to the drought at each Liturgy. On Saturdays they sang an Akathist to the Mother of God, and on Sundays they served a Molieben. “The supplications,” said the saint, “should end on the Feast of Saint Elias” (July 20). Indeed, on that very day a storm raged at Irkutsk with such strong rains, that in the streets of the city water stood up to people’s knees, and thus the drought ended.
Through the efforts of Saint Innocent, construction was started on a stone church to replace the wooden one at the Ascension monastery, and the boundaries of the diocese were expanded to include not only Selingin, but also the Yakutsk and Ilimsk surroundings.
The saint, not noted for robust health, and under the influence of the severe climate and his afflictions, departed to the Lord at a rather young age (51). He reposed on the morning of November 27, 1731.
In the year 1764, the body of the saint was discovered incorrupt during restoration work on the monastery’s Tikhvin church. Many miracles occurred not only at Irkutsk, but also in remote places of Siberia, for those who flocked to the saint with prayer. This moved the Most Holy Synod to uncover the relics and to glorify the saint in the year 1800.
In the year 1804, a feastday was established to celebrate his memory throughout all Russia on November 26, since the Sign Icon of the Mother of God is commemorated on the actual day of his repose (November 27). Saint Innocent is also remembered on February 9.
In 1921, the relics of Saint Innocent were taken from their shrine and placed in a Soviet anti-religious museum. They were moved to another museum in Yaroslav in 1939, and were exhibited as “mummified remains of an unknown man.” In 1990, they were brought to the newly-reopened Tolga Monastery in the Yaroslav diocese. In September of 1990, the holy relics arrived in Irkutsk and were placed in the cathedral, to the joy of all the faithful.
Venerable James the Solitary of Syria
Saint James the Solitary (Hermit) was the disciple of Saint Maron (February 14). He lived in asceticism on a mountain not far from the city of Cyrrhus in Syria. He suffered grievous ills, but he always wore chains, ate food only in the evening, and prayed constantly. By such efforts he attained to high spiritual perfection, receiving from the Lord power over demons, the gift of healing and even of raising the dead. Saint James peacefully fell asleep in the Lord.
Venerable Stylianus of Paphlagonia
Saint Stylianus was born in Paphlagonia of Asia Minor sometime between the fourth and sixth centuries. He inherited a great fortune from his parents when they died, but he did not keep it. He gave it away to the poor according to their need, desiring to help those who were less fortunate.
Stylianus left the city and went to a monastery, where he devoted his life to God. Since he was more zealous and devout than the other monks, he provoked their jealousy and had to leave. He left the monastery to live alone in a cave in the wilderness, where he spent his time in prayer and fasting.
The goodness and piety of the saint soon became evident to the inhabitants of Paphlagonia, and they sought him out to hear his teaching, or to be cured by him. Many were healed of physical and mental illnesses by his prayers.
Saint Stylianus was known for his love of children, and he would heal them of their infirmities. Even after his death, the citizens of Paphlagonia believed that he could cure their children. Whenever a child became sick, an icon of Saint Stylianus was painted and was hung over the child’s bed.
At the hour of his death, the face of Saint Stylianus suddenly became radiant, and an angel appeared to receive his soul.
Known as a protector of children, Saint Stylianus is depicted in iconography holding an infant in his arms. Pious Christians ask him to help and protect their children, and childless women entreat his intercession so that they might have children.
Venerable Nikon “Metanoeite,” the Preacher of Repentance
Saint Nikon Metanoeite (“the Preacher of Repentance”) was born at Pontus Polemoniacus at the beginning of the tenth century. He was the son of a wealthy landowner, and he was given the name Nicetas in Baptism.
Since he had no desire to take over the management of his family’s wealth and estates, Nicetas entered the monastery of Chrysopetro, where he shone forth in prayer and asceticism. When he received the monastic tonsure, he was given the new name Nikon. The new name symbolizes a new life in the Spirit (Romans 7:6), and the birth of the new man (Ephesians 4:24). A monk is expected to stop associating himself with the old personality connected to his former life in the world, and to devote himself entirely to God.
Saint Nikon had a remarkable gift for preaching. When he spoke of virtue and spiritual matters, his listeners were filled with heartfelt compunction and love for God. His words produced such spiritual fruit in those who heard him that he was asked to travel through the eastern regions to preach. He visited Armenia, Crete, Euboea, Aegina, and the Peloponnesus, proclaiming the Gospel of Christ.
“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” This was the message of Saint John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), and of Christ Himself (Matthew 4:17). This was also the message of Saint Nikon. Wherever he went, he would begin his sermons with “Repent,” hence he was called “Nikon Metanoeite,” or “Nikon, the Preacher of Repentance.”
At first, people paid little heed to his message. Then gradually he won their hearts through his preaching, his miracles, and his gentle, loving nature. He stressed the necessity for everyone to repent, warning that those who utter a few sighs and groans and think that they have achieved true repentance have deluded themselves. Saint Nikon told the people that true sorrow for one’s sins is cultivated by prayer, self-denial, almsgiving, ascetical efforts, and by confession to one’s spiritual Father.
After sowing the seeds of piety, Saint Nikon began to see them bear fruit. People started to change their lives, but he urged them to strengthen their souls in virtue and good works so that they would not be overwhelmed by the cares of this world.
Eventually, Saint Nikon settled in a cave outside Sparta. Soon he moved into the city, because so many people were coming to hear him. In the center of Sparta, he built a church dedicated to Christ the Savior. In time a monastery grew up around the church.
Saint Nikon never ceased to preach the Word of God, and to lead people back to the spiritual life of the Church. He also healed the sick, and performed many other miracles.
Saint Nikon fell asleep in the Lord in 998, and his memory was honored by the people around Sparta. During the Turkish occupation of Greece, however, he was all but forgotten, except in Sparta. After the Greek Revolution in 1821, a service to Saint Nikon was composed by Father Daniel Georgopoulos, and was based on the saint’s Life, which had been written by Igumen Gregory of Saint Nikon’s Monastery in 1142.
Saint Nikon was recognized as the patron saint of the diocese of Monemvasia and Lakedaimonia in 1893 when the cathedral church in Sparta was dedicated to Saint Nikon, the Preacher of Repentance.
Saints Athanasios and Theodosios of Cherepovets, disciples of Saint Sergius of Radonezh
Saints Athanasios (nicknamed "the Iron Staff") and Theodosios, were disciples of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, and they settled in the Novgorod region, on the border of Cherepovets, at the confluence of the Yagorba River and the Sheksna. There, in the dense, impenetrable forests, they built a church in honor of the Holy Trinity, and a monastery was also established. Nothing is known for certain about Saint Theodosios, and almost no information has been preserved about Saint Athanasios, because during the Time of Troubles the Monastery was razed almost to the ground, and the written records were destroyed. We do know that the Monastery church built by Saints Athanasios and Theodosios, was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, as well as to Saints Sergius and Nikon of Radonezh. On the basis of this information, it is thought that both Saint Athanasios and Saint Theodosios were tonsured at Trinity-Sergius Monastery, for the ancient hermits used to build monasteries on the model of those in which they became monks.
There is written testimony about these Saints in an inscription in a loose-leaf book from 1568 which reads: "This is the book of the Monastery of the Resurrection of Christ and the Life-giving Trinity, and of our Venerable Fathers Theodosios and Athanasios."
In the the chronicle of the Saints it says: "Venerable Athanasios, called 'Iron Staff,' the disciple of Saint Sergius the Wonderworker; who reposed in the year 1392." The Stroganov Manual of Iconography describes the Saint's appearance: "Venerable Athanasios… a grey beard, narrower and shorter than Blaise's."
Shortly before the arrival of the monks in that region, a chapel was built through the efforts of a merchant. This man decided to build a chapel after a miracle occurred. One day he was transporting goods in a boat, when suddenly in the middle of the day, it grew dark, and the boat ran aground. The frightened merchant began to pray, and soon the darkness lifted, and a nearby mountain was illumined with a bright light. The man climbed the mountain and was so amazed at the beautiful view that he returned to the area and built a chapel the following year.
Very little information about these Saints has come down to us. We know that Saint Athanasios carried an iron staff, and Saint Theodosios may have been the merchant who built the chapel.
In 1764, the Resurrection Monastery was abolished, and its church became a parish church. Since 1780 it has been called the Resurrection Cathedral of the city of Cherepovets. Hidden under this church, the relics of Saint Athanasios and Saint Theodosios now rest. The Cherepovets Resurrection Cathedral also has icons of Saints Athanasios and Theodosios.
The Saints reposed in the year 1388, and were buried in the Monastery’s cathedral church. They are also commemorated on July 5 and September 25.
Catherine the Great Martyr of Alexandria, Apodosis of the Presentation of the Theotokos into the Temple, Mercurius the Great Martyr of Caesarea in Cappadocia
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 3:23-29; 4:1-5
Brethren, before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
At that time, a great crowd followed Jesus and thronged about him. And there was a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.” And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said, “Who touched my garments?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?'” And he looked around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Leavetaking of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos Into the Temple
According to Holy Tradition, the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple took place in the following manner. The parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anna, praying for an end to their childlessness, vowed that if a child were born to them, they would dedicate it to the service of God.
When the Most Holy Virgin reached the age of three, the holy parents decided to fulfill their vow. They gathered together their relatives and acquaintances, and dressed the All-Pure Virgin in Her finest clothes. Singing sacred songs and with lighted candles in their hands, virgins escorted Her to the Temple (Ps. 44/45:14-15). There the High Priest and several priests met the handmaiden of God. In the Temple, fifteen high steps led to the sanctuary, which only the priests and High Priest could enter. (Because they recited a Psalm on each step, Psalms 119/120-133/134 are called “Psalms of Ascent.”) The child Mary, so it seemed, could not make it up this stairway. But just as they placed Her on the first step, strengthened by the power of God, She quickly went up the remaining steps and ascended to the highest one. Then the High Priest, through inspiration from above, led the Most Holy Virgin into the Holy of Holies, where only the High Priest entered once a year to offer a purifying sacrifice of blood. Therefore, all those present in the Temple were astonished at this most unusual occurrence.
After entrusting their child to the Heavenly Father, Joachim and Anna returned home. The All-Holy Virgin remained in the quarters for virgins near the Temple. According to the testimony of Holy Scripture (Exodus 38; 1 Kings 1: 28; Luke 2: 37), and also the historian Josephus Flavius, there were many living quarters around the Temple, in which those who were dedicated to the service of God dwelt.
The earthly life of the Most Holy Theotokos from Her infancy until She was taken up to Heaven is shrouded in deep mystery. Her life at the Jerusalem Temple was also a secret. “If anyone were to ask me,” said Saint Jerome, “how the Most Holy Virgin spent the time of Her youth, I would answer that that is known to God Himself and the Archangel Gabriel, Her constant guardian.”
But there are accounts in Church Tradition, that during the All-Pure Virgin’s stay at the Temple, She grew up in a community of pious virgins, diligently read the Holy Scripture, occupied Herself with handicrafts, prayed constantly, and grew in love for God. From ancient times, the Church has celebrated the Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple. Indications that the Feast was observed in the first centuries of Christianity are found in the traditions of Palestinian Christians, which say that the holy Empress Helen (May 21) built a church in honor of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa, in the fourth century, also mentions this Feast. In the eighth century Saints Germanus and Tarasius, Patriarchs of Constantinople, delivered sermons on the Feast of the Entry.
The Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple foretells God’s blessing for the human race, the preaching of salvation, the promise of the coming of Christ.
DISCOURSE ON THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY
OF OUR MOST PURE LADY THEOTOKOS
INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES
by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica
If a tree is known by its fruit, and a good tree bears good fruit (Mt. 7:17; Luke 6:44), then is not the Mother of Goodness Itself, She who bore the Eternal Beauty, incomparably more excellent than every good, whether in this world or the world above? Therefore, the coeternal and identical Image of goodness, Preeternal, transcending all being, He Who is the preexisting and good Word of the Father, moved by His unutterable love for mankind and compassion for us, put on our image, that He might reclaim for Himself our nature which had been dragged down to uttermost Hades, so as to renew this corrupted nature and raise it to the heights of Heaven. For this purpose, He had to assume a flesh that was both new and ours, that He might refashion us from out of ourselves. Now He finds a Handmaiden perfectly suited to these needs, the supplier of Her own unsullied nature, the Ever-Virgin now hymned by us, and Whose miraculous Entrance into the Temple, into the Holy of Holies, we now celebrate. God predestined Her before the ages for the salvation and reclaiming of our kind. She was chosen, not just from the crowd, but from the ranks of the chosen of all ages, renowned for piety and understanding, and for their God-pleasing words and deeds.
In the beginning, there was one who rose up against us: the author of evil, the serpent, who dragged us into the abyss. Many reasons impelled him to rise up against us, and there are many ways by which he enslaved our nature: envy, rivalry, hatred, injustice, treachery, slyness, etc. In addition to all this, he also has within him the power of bringing death, which he himself engendered, being the first to fall away from true life.
The author of evil was jealous of Adam, when he saw him being led from earth to Heaven, from which he was justly cast down. Filled with envy, he pounced upon Adam with a terrible ferocity, and even wished to clothe him with the garb of death. Envy is not only the begetter of hatred, but also of murder, which this truly man-hating serpent brought about in us. For he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruin of that which was created in the image and likeness of God. Since he was not bold enough to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit. This truly terrible and malicious plotter pretended to be a friend and useful adviser by assuming the physical form of a serpent, and stealthily took their position. By his God-opposing advice, he instills in man his own death-bearing power, like a venomous poison.
If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the divine commandment, then he would have shown himself the vanquisher of his enemy, and withstood his deathly attack. But since he voluntarily gave in to sin, he was defeated and was made a sinner. Since he is the root of our race, he has produced us as death-bearing shoots. So, it was necessary for us, if he were to fight back against his defeat and to claim victory, to rid himself of the death-bearing venomous poison in his soul and body, and to absorb life, eternal and indestructible life.
It was necessary for us to have a new root for our race, a new Adam, not just one Who would be sinless and invincible, but one Who also would be able to forgive sins and set free from punishment those subject to it. And not only would He have life in Himself, but also the capacity to restore to life, so that He could grant to those who cleave to Him and are related to Him by race both life and the forgiveness of their sins, restoring to life not only those who came after Him, but also those who already had died before Him. Therefore, Saint Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, exclaims, “the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45).
Except for God, there is no one who is without sin, or life-creating, or able to remit sin. Therefore, the new Adam must be not only Man, but also God. He is at the same time life, wisdom, truth, love, and mercy, and every other good thing, so that He might renew the old Adam and restore him to life through mercy, wisdom and righteousness. These are the opposites of the things which the author of evil used to bring about our aging and death.
As the slayer of mankind raised himself against us with envy and hatred, so the Source of life was lifted up [on the Cross] because of His immeasurable goodness and love for mankind. He intensely desired the salvation of His creature, i.e., that His creature would be restored by Himself. In contrast to this, the author of evil wanted to bring God’s creature to ruin, and thereby put mankind under his own power, and tyrannically to afflict us. And just as he achieved the conquest and the fall of mankind by means of injustice and cunning, by deceit and his trickery, so has the Liberator brought about the defeat of the author of evil, and the restoration of His own creature with truth, justice and wisdom.
It was a deed of perfect justice that our nature, which was voluntarily enslaved and struck down, should again enter the struggle for victory and cast off its voluntary enslavement. Therefore, God deigned to receive our nature from us, hypostatically uniting with it in a marvelous way. But it was impossible to unite that Most High Nature, Whose purity is incomprehensible for human reason, to a sinful nature before it had been purified. Therefore, for the conception and birth of the Bestower of purity, a perfectly spotless and Most Pure Virgin was required.
Today we celebrate the memory of those things that contributed, if only once, to the Incarnation. He Who is God by nature, the Co-unoriginate and Coeternal Word and Son of the Transcendent Father, becomes the Son of Man, the Son of the Ever-Virgin. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8), immutable in His divinity and blameless in His humanity, He alone, as the Prophet Isaiah prophesied, “practiced no iniquity, nor deceit with His lips” (Is. 53: 9). He alone was not brought forth in iniquity, nor was He conceived in sin, in contrast to what the Prophet David says concerning himself and every other man (Ps. 50/51: 5). Even in what He assumes, He is perfectly pure and has no need to be cleansed Himself. But for our sake, He accepted purification, suffering, death and resurrection, that He might transmit them to us.
God is born of the spotless and Holy Virgin, or better to say, of the Most Pure and All-Holy Virgin. She is above every fleshly defilement, and even above every impure thought. Her conceiving resulted not from fleshly lust, but by the overshadowing of the Most Holy Spirit. Such desire being utterly alien to Her, it is through prayer and spiritual readiness that She declared to the angel: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; be it unto Me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38), and that She conceived and gave birth. So, in order to render the Virgin worthy of this sublime purpose, God marked this ever-virgin Daughter now praised by us, from before the ages, and from eternity, choosing Her from out of His elect.
Turn your attention then, to where this choice began. From the sons of Adam God chose the wondrous Seth, who showed himself a living heaven through his becoming behavior, and through the beauty of his virtues. That is why he was chosen, and from whom the Virgin would blossom as the divinely fitting chariot of God. She was needed to give birth and to summon the earth-born to heavenly sonship. For this reason also all the lineage of Seth were called “sons of God,” because from this lineage a son of man would be born the Son of God. The name Seth signifies a rising or resurrection, or more specifically, it signifies the Lord, Who promises and gives immortal life to all who believe in Him.
And how precisely exact is this parallel! Seth was born of Eve, as she herself said, in place of Abel, whom Cain killed through jealousy (Gen. 4:25); and Christ, the Son of the Virgin, was born for us in place of Adam, whom the author of evil also killed through jealousy. But Seth did not resurrect Abel, since he was only a type of the resurrection. But our Lord Jesus Christ resurrected Adam, since He is the very Life and the Resurrection of the earth-born, for whose sake the descendents of Seth are granted divine adoption through hope, and are called the children of God. It was because of this hope that they were called sons of God, as is evident from the one who was first called so, the successor in the choice. This was Enos, the son of Seth, who as Moses wrote, first hoped to call on the Name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26).
In this manner, the choice of the future Mother of God, beginning with the very sons of Adam and proceeding through all the generations of time, through the Providence of God, passes to the Prophet-king David and the successors of his kingdom and lineage. When the chosen time had come, then from the house and posterity of David, Joachim and Anna are chosen by God. Though they were childless, they were by their virtuous life and good disposition the finest of all those descended from the line of David. And when in prayer they besought God to deliver them from their childlessness, and promised to dedicate their child to God from its infancy. By God Himself, the Mother of God was proclaimed and given to them as a child, so that from such virtuous parents the all-virtuous child would be raised. So in this manner, chastity joined with prayer came to fruition by producing the Mother of virginity, giving birth in the flesh to Him Who was born of God the Father before the ages.
Now, when Righteous Joachim and Anna saw that they had been granted their wish, and that the divine promise to them was realized in fact, then they on their part, as true lovers of God, hastened to fulfill their vow given to God as soon as the child had been weaned from milk. They have now led this truly sanctified child of God, now the Mother of God, this Virgin into the Temple of God. And She, being filled with Divine gifts even at such a tender age, … She, rather than others, determined what was being done over Her. In Her manner She showed that She was not so much presented into the Temple, but that She Herself entered into the service of God of her own accord, as if she had wings, striving towards this sacred and divine love. She considered it desirable and fitting that she should enter into the Temple and dwell in the Holy of Holies.
Therefore, the High Priest, seeing that this child, more than anyone else, had divine grace within Her, wished to set Her within the Holy of Holies. He convinced everyone present to welcome this, since God had advanced it and approved it. Through His angel, God assisted the Virgin and sent Her mystical food, with which She was strengthened in nature, while in body She was brought to maturity and was made purer and more exalted than the angels, having the Heavenly spirits as servants. She was led into the Holy of Holies not just once, but was accepted by God to dwell there with Him during Her youth, so that through Her, the Heavenly Abodes might be opened and given for an eternal habitation to those who believe in Her miraculous birthgiving.
So it is, and this is why She, from the beginning of time, was chosen from among the chosen. She Who is manifest as the Holy of Holies, Who has a body even purer than the spirits purified by virtue, is capable of receiving … the Hypostatic Word of the Unoriginate Father. Today the Ever-Virgin Mary, like a Treasure of God, is stored in the Holy of Holies, so that in due time, (as it later came to pass) She would serve for the enrichment of, and an ornament for, all the world. Therefore, Christ God also glorifies His Mother, both before, and also after His birth.
We who understand the salvation begun for our sake through the Most Holy Virgin, give Her thanks and praise according to our ability. And truly, if the grateful woman (of whom the Gospel tells us), after hearing the saving words of the Lord, blessed and thanked His Mother, raising her voice above the din of the crowd and saying to Christ, “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps Thou hast sucked” (Luke 11:27), then we who have the words of eternal life written out for us, and not only the words, but also the miracles and the Passion, and the raising of our nature from death, and its ascent from earth to Heaven, and the promise of immortal life and unfailing salvation, then how shall we not unceasingly hymn and bless the Mother of the Author of our Salvation and the Giver of Life, celebrating Her conception and birth, and now Her Entry into the Holy of Holies?
Now, brethren, let us remove ourselves from earthly to celestial things. Let us change our path from the flesh to the spirit. Let us change our desire from temporal things to those that endure. Let us scorn fleshly delights, which serve as allurements for the soul and soon pass away. Let us desire spiritual gifts, which remain undiminished. Let us turn our reason and our attention from earthly concerns and raise them to the inaccessible places of Heaven, to the Holy of Holies, where the Mother of God now resides.
Therefore, in such manner our songs and prayers to Her will gain entry, and thus through her mediation, we shall be heirs of the everlasting blessings to come, through the grace and love for mankind of Him Who was born of Her for our sake, our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory, honor and worship, together with His Unoriginate Father and His Coeternal and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Hieromartyr Clement, Pope of Rome
The Hieromartyr Clement, Pope of Rome, was born at Rome into a rich and illustrious family. Separated from his parents from childhood by force of circumstances, Clement was raised by strangers. Living in Rome, the youth received a fine education, he was surrounded by luxury, and had access to the imperial court. But these comforts brought him no joy, and pagan wisdom failed to attract him. He began to ponder the meaning of life.
When the news of Christ and His teaching began to reach the capital, Saint Clement left his home and estate and went to the lands where the Apostles were preaching. At Alexandria Saint Clement met the holy Apostle Barnabas, listening to his words with deep attention, and perceiving the power and truth of the Word of God. Arriving in Palestine, Saint Clement was baptized by the holy Apostle Peter and became his zealous disciple and constant companion, sharing his toil and sufferings with him. Shortly before his own sufferings and death, Saint Peter consecrated Saint Clement as Bishop of Rome. After the death of the Apostle Peter, Saint Linus (67-79) was the next Bishop of Rome, succeeded by Saint Anacletus (79-91), and then Saint Clement (92-101).
The virtuous life, charitable works and prayerful activity of Saint Clement converted many to Christ. He once baptized 424 people on the day of Pascha. Among the baptized were people of all social classes: slaves, officials, and even members of the imperial family.
The pagans, seeing the success of his apostolic preaching, denounced Saint Clement to the emperor Trajan (98-117), accusing the saint of insulting the pagan gods. The emperor banished Saint Clement from the capital, sending him to the Crimea, to work at a stone quarry near the city of Cherson. Many of the saint’s disciples followed after him voluntarily, preferring to go into exile rather than live without their spiritual Father.
When he arrived at the place of exile, Saint Clement found many Christian believers there, sentenced to labor under harsh conditions amidst a scarcity of water. He prayed together with the condemned, and the Lord appeared to him in the form of a lamb and revealed the location of a spring, from which gushed forth a veritable river of water. This miracle attracted a multitude of people to Saint Clement. Hearing the zealous preacher, hundreds of pagans were converted to Christ. Each day 500 or more men were baptized. And there in the stone quarry, a church was built, in which he served as priest.
The apostolic activity of the saint aroused the wrath of the emperor Trajan, and he ordered that Saint Clement be drowned. They threw the martyr into the sea with an anchor tied to his neck. This occurred in the year 101.
The saint’s faithful disciples Cornelius and Fibius asked the people to pray that the Lord would permit them to see the martyr’s body. The sea drew back a distance of three miles from the shore and the people walked out on the seabed until they found a marble cave shaped like a church. There they found the incorrupt body of their archpastor in this “Angelic Church” formed by God. After this, each year on the anniversary of Saint Clement’s martyric death the sea receded, and for seven days Christians were able to venerate his holy relics.
During the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Nikēphóros (802-811), by divine providence, the sea failed to withdraw, and the relics of Saint Clement became inaccessible for fifty years. In the time of the emperor Michael and his mother Theodora (855-867), Saints Cyril and Methodius visited Cherson. When they learned of the concealed relics of Saint Clement, they asked Bishop George of Cherson to pray that the Lord would show them the relics of the hieromartyr.
Saints Cyril and Methodius walked along the shore in procession with the clergy who came with them from Constantinople. Through the fervent prayers of everyone gathered there, the holy relics of Saint Clement miraculously appeared on the surface of the sea at midnight. They solemnly took them to the Church of the Holy Apostles at Constantinople. A portion of the relics were then brought to Rome by Saints Cyril and Methodius, but a large portion of the relics was later brought to Kiev by the holy Prince Vladimir (July 15) and placed in the Desyatin-Tithe church, together with the relics of Saint Fibius, where a chapel dedicated to Saint Clement had been built. The hieromartyr Clement is widely venerated in Russia. From ancient times, many churches have been dedicated to him.
Saint Clement, who belongs to the Apostolic Fathers, has left to us a spiritual legacy (two Epistles to the Corinthians) the first written examples of Christian teaching after the writings of the holy Apostles.
Hieromartyr Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria
The Holy Hieromartyr Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria, was born and raised at Alexandria. He was a highly educated man, and was head of the school of Alexandria. In the year 300 he became the archpastor of the Alexandrian Church, succeeding his teacher and spiritual guide, the holy Bishop Theonas.
Forced into exile from the city during the anti-Christian persecutions under the emperors Diocletian and Maximian, Saint Peter traveled through many lands, encouraging his flock by letter. Again returned to his city, in order to guide the Alexandrian Church personally during this dangerous period. The saint secretly visited Christians locked up in prison, encouraging them to be steadfast in faith, assisting the widows and orphans, preaching the Word of God, constantly praying and officiating at the divine services. And the Lord kept him safe from the hands of the persecutors.
During this time of unrest the iniquitous heretic Arius, who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, sowed the tares of his impious teaching. When Arius refused to be corrected and submit to the truth, Saint Peter anathematized the heretic and excommunicated him from the Church. Arius then sent two of Saint Peter’s priests to beg the saint to lift the excommunication from him, pretending that he had repented and given up his false teachings. This was not true, for Arius hoped to succeed Saint Peter as Archbishop of Alexandria. Saint Peter, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, saw through the wickedness and deceit of Arius, and so he instructed his flock not to believe Arius nor to accept him into communion.
Under the wise nurturing of Saint Peter the Church of Alexandria strengthened and grew in spite of the persecutions. But finally, on orders from the emperor Maximian (305-311), the saint was arrested and sentenced to death. A multitude of people gathered at the entrance of the prison, expressing their outrage. Wanting to avoid bloodshed and a riot by the people, the saint sent a message to the authorities, in which he suggested that they make an opening in the back wall of the prison, so that he might be taken away secretly to execution.
In the dark of the night Saint Peter went with the executioners, who took him beyond the city walls and beheaded him at the same spot where formerly Saint Mark had been executed. That night a certain pious virgin heard a Voice from heaven saying, “Peter was first among the Apostles; Peter is the last of the Alexandrian Martyrs.” This took place in the year 311. In the morning, when people learned of the death of their bishop, a crowd gathered at the place of execution. They took up the body and head of the martyr and went to the church, dressing him in his bishop’s vestments, they sat him in his throne at the high place in the altar. During his life Saint Peter never sat on it, but sat on a footstool instead. The saint once explained that whenever he approached his throne he beheld a heavenly light shining on it, and he sensed the presence of a divine power. Therefore, he didn’t dare to sit there.
The Lord Jesus Christ once appeared to Saint Peter as a twelve-year-old child wearing a robe that was torn from top to bottom. Saint Peter asked the Savior who had torn his garment, and He replied, “That madman Arius has torn it by dividing the people whom I have redeemed by My blood. Do not receive him into Communion with the Church, for he has worked evil against Me and My flock.”
Saint Peter, a great champion of Orthodoxy, is known also as a profound theologian. Passages from his book, “On the Divinity (of Jesus Christ)”, were consulted at the Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon. Of all his works, the most widely known and highly esteemed by the Church are his “Penitential Canons”.
Saint Clement of Ochrid, Equal of the Apostles, Bishop of Greater Macedonia, and his companions Nahum, Savva, Gorazd and Angelar
Saints Clement, Bishop of Ochrid, Equal of the Apostles, Nahum, Savva, Gorazd and Angelar1 were Slavs, disciples of Saints Cyril and Methodios (May 11). At first they lived as ascetics in Moravia, where Saint Gorazd succeeded Saint Methodios as bishop. He was fluent in Slavonic, Greek and Latin. Saints Clement, Nahum, Angelar and Savva were priests.
The Enlighteners of the Slavs were opposed by German missionaries, who had the support of the Pope and the patronage of the Moravian Prince Svyatopolk. The struggle centered around the questions of the need for Divine Services in Slavonic, the Filioque, and Saturday fasting. Pope Stephen VI prohibited the use of Slavonic in church.
The proponents of the three-tongued heresy (who wanted to use only Hebrew, Greek, or Latin for Church Services), after setting aside the ancestral language of the Slavic peoples, brought the disciples of Saint Methodios to trial, including Saint Clement. They subjected them to fierce torture: dragging them through thorns, and holding them in prison for a long time, just as they had done with their Spiritual Father, Saint Methodios.
In 886, some of the prisoners were sold to slave-traders, and ended up in the Venice marketplace. The ambassador of the Byzantine Emperor Basil the Macedonian went to Venice, ransomed the Saints and took them to Constantinople. The older confessors were banished. It is not known where Saint Gorazd went, nor where Saint Savva found shelter. Saints Nahum and Angelar went to Bulgaria.
In 907 Moravia collapsed under the onslaught of the Magyars, and Moravian refugees by the same routes followed earlier by the Saints they had exiled.
The Bulgarians received the Slavonic confessors with respect and requested them to conduct Divine Services in the Slavonic language. The Bulgarian Prince Boris sought people such as the disciples of Saint Methodios, who labored for the enlightenment of his nation. Right away, the Saints began to study Slavonic books collected by the Bulgarian nobles.
Saint Angelar soon reposed, and Saint Clement was appointed to teach at Kutmichivitsa, in southwest Macedonia. In the Eastern Church, a teacher had to be a worthy person, someone known for his devout life, and who was able to speak well in public. Saint Clement was a teacher while he was still in Moravia. In Bulgaria, he worked as an instructor until 893. He organized a school at the princely court, which was highly regarded by the time of Simeon's reign. In southwest Macedonia he created separate schools for adults and children.
Saint Clement instructed the children in reading and in writing. The total number of his students was enormous. Those chosen and accepted for ordination amounted to 3500 men. In the year 893, Saint Clement became Bishop of Dremvitsa, or Velitsa, and Saint Nahum took his place.
Saint Clement was the first Bulgarian hierarch to serve, preach and write in the Slavonic language. To this end he systematically trained clergy from among the Slavic people. The holy bishop labored for the glory of God into his old age. When his strength failed, and he was unable to fulfill his responsibilities in the cathedral, he asked Tsar Simeon to let him retire.
The Tsar urged the Saint not to abandon his cathedral, and Saint Clement agreed to continue his episcopal service. After this he went to Okhrid, to a monastery he founded. There he continued his work of translation, including some important portions of the Pentecostarion.
Saint Clement became seriously ill and departed to the Lord in the year 916. His body was placed in a coffin, which he had made with his own hands, and was buried at Okhrid's Saint Panteleimon Monastery.
Saint Clement is considered the first Slavonic author. Not only did he continue the translation work begun by Saints Cyril and Methodios, he also left behind works of his own composition, the first samples of Slavonic spiritual literature.
Many of the lessons and sermons of Saint Clement were brought to Russia, where they were read and lovingly copied by devout Russian Christians.
The relics of Saints Gorazd and Angelar rest near Berat in Albania, and Saint Nahum’s relics are in the monastery which bears his name, near Lake Okhrid.
Saint Clement is also commemorated on November 22 (Greek usage), on November 25 (his Name Day), and on July 27 (the day of his blessed repose).
1 His name may come from the Greek word αναγορεύω (to proclaim).
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