THURSDAY OF THE 10TH WEEK
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS
Our Holy Father Clement, Pope of Rome, Peter, Archbishop of Alexandria, Hermogenes, the Martyr, Afterfeast of the Entry of the Theotokos into the Temple, Philoumenos and Christopher the Martyrs
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE PHILIPPIANS 3:20-21; 4:1-3
Brethren, our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself. Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
At that time, Jesus, taking his twelve disciples, said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
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.
The Holy Great Martyr Katherine was the daughter of Konstos, the governor of Alexandria, Egypt during the reign of Emperor Maximian (305-313). Living in the capital, the center of Hellenistic knowledge, and possessed of a rare beauty and intellect, Katherine received an excellent education, studying the works of the greatest philosophers and teachers of antiquity. Young men from the most worthy families of the empire sought the hand of the beautiful Katherine, but she was not interested in any of them. She told her parents that she would enter into marriage only with someone who surpassed her in nobility, wealth, comeliness and wisdom.
Katherine’s mother, a secret Christian, sent her to her own Spiritual Father, a saintly Elder living in a cave outside the city, for advice. After listening to Katherine, the Elder said that he knew of someone who surpassed her in everything. “His countenance is more radiant than the shining of the sun, and all of creation is governed by His wisdom. His riches are given to all the nations of the world, yet they never diminish. His compassion is unequaled.”
This description of the Heavenly Bridegroom produced an ardent desire in the soul of the holy maiden to see Him. "If you do as I tell you,” said the monk, “you will gaze upon the countenance of this illustrious man.” In parting, the Elder gave Katherine an icon of the Theotokos with the Divine Child on Her arm and told her to pray with faith to the Queen of Heaven, the Mother of the Heavenly Bridegroom, and she would hear Katherine and grant her heart’s desire.
Katherine prayed all night and was permitted to see the Most Holy Virgin, Who said to her Divine Son, “Behold Thy handmaiden Katherine, how fair and virtuous she is.” But the Child turned His face away from her saying, “No, she is ugly and unbelieving. She is a foolish pauper, and I cannot bear to look at her until she forsakes her impiety.”
Katherine returned again to the Elder deeply saddened, and told him what she had seen in the dream. He received her, instructed her in the faith of Christ, admonished her to preserve her purity and integrity and to pray unceasingly. She then received the Mystery of Holy Baptism from him. Again Saint Katherine had a vision of the Most Holy Theotokos with her Child. Now the Lord looked at her tenderly and gave her a beautiful ring, a wondrous token of her betrothal to the Heavenly Bridegroom (this ring is still on her hand).
At that time Emperor Maximian was in Alexandria for a pagan festival. Therefore, the celebration was especially splendid and crowded. The cries of the sacrificial animals, the smoke and the smell of the sacrifices, the endless blaze of fires, and the bustling crowds at the arenas defiled the city of Alexandria. Human victims also were brought, the confessors of Christ, who would not deny Him under torture. They were condemned to death in the fire. Katherine's love for the Christian martyrs, and her fervent desire to ease their sufferings, compelled her to speak to the pagan priest and to Emperor Maximian.
Introducing herself, the Saint confessed her faith in the One True God, and exposed the errors of the pagans. The beauty of the maiden captivated the Emperor. In order to convince her of the superiority of pagan wisdom, the Emperor ordered fifty of the most learned philosophers and rhetoricians of the Empire to dispute with her, but the Saint got the better of the wise men, so that they came to believe in Christ themselves. Saint Katherine made the Sign of the Cross over the martyrs, and they bravely accepted death for Christ and were burnt alive by order of the Emperor.
Unable to persuade the Saint, Maximian tried to entice her with the promise of riches and fame. Hearing her angry refusal, the Emperor ordered his men to subject the Saint to terrible tortures, and then throw her in prison. The Empress Augusta, who had heard much about the Saint, wanted to see her. She prevailed upon the military commander Porphyrios to accompany her to the prison with a detachment of soldiers. The Empress was impressed by Katherine's strong spirit, and her face was radiant with divine grace. The holy martyr explained the Christian Faith to them, and they were converted to Christ.
On the following day, they again brought the martyr to the judgment court where, under the threat of being broken on the wheel, she was urged to renounce the Christian Faith and to offer sacrifice to the "gods." The Saint steadfastly confessed Christ and she was taken to be tortured on four wheels with sharp iron spikes, but an Angel smashed the instruments of execution, which shattered into pieces with many pagans standing nearby.
After seeing this miracle, the Empress Augusta and the imperial courtier Porphyrios and 200 soldiers confessed their faith in Christ before everyone, and they were beheaded. Maximian tried again to entice the holy martyr, offering to marry her, and again he was refused. Saint Katherine remained faithful to her heavenly Bridegroom Christ, and after praying to Him, she laid her head on the block beneath the executioner’s sword.
The relics of Saint Katherine were taken by the Angels to Mount Sinai. In the VI century, the venerable head and left hand of the holy martyr were found through a revelation and transferred with honor to the newly-constructed church of the Monastery on Mount Sinai, built by the holy Emperor Justinian (November 14).
Saint Katherine is called upon for relief and assistance during a difficult childbirth. Pilgrims to her monastery on Mount Sinai are given souvenir rings as a remembrance of their visit.
Saint Katherine is commemorated on November 25 in Greek usage.
The Holy Great Martyr Mercurius, a Scythian by descent, served as a soldier in the Roman army. The impious emperors Decius (249-251) and Valerian (253-259) issued a decree ordering all Roman citizens to worship the pagan gods, and condemning Christians to torture and death unless they obeyed the decree.
At that time barbarians attacked the Roman empire, and the emperor Decius went on campaign with a large army. In one of the battles an angel of the Lord appeared to Mercurius in the guise of a nobleman and presented him a sword saying, “Fear not, Mercurius. Go forth bravely against the enemy, and when you are victorious, do not forget the Lord your God.” With this sword the holy warrior cut through the ranks of the barbarians. He also killed their king, winning victory for the Romans. The grateful Emperor Decius rewarded Saint Mercurius for his bravery, and made him commander of the entire army.
The angel of the Lord appeared again to the holy warrior, who had received great honors and riches, and reminded him by Whom the victory had been given. He also told General Mercurius that he would suffer for Christ, and would receive a crown of victory in His Kingdom. Mercurius recalled that his father Gordian had also confessed the Christian Faith. Although the saint had been baptized, he felt he had not devoted his life to God as his father and grandfather had done. Thus, he was weeping and lamenting when he was summoned before the emperor.
Decius consulted Mercurius on matters of state, then suggested that they offer sacrifice in the temple of Artemis. Not wishing to do this, the saint returned to his home. He was denounced as a Christian by a nobleman, whose name was Catullus. The emperor would not believe this, however, until he himself had questioned the saint. Openly declaring himself a Christian, Mercurius threw down his military belt and cloak at the emperor’s feet, and he repudiated all the honors he had received. The angel of the Lord again appeared to Saint Mercurius in the prison, encouraging him to endure every suffering for Christ.
They stretched the holy martyr between four pillars and lit a fire beneath him. They cut his body with knives, and so much blood flowed from his wounds that it extinguished the fire. When they threw him back into the prison nearly dead from his wounds, Saint Mercurius was healed by the Lord, demonstrating the great power of Christ to the impious pagans. Condemned to death, the saint was deemed worthy of a vision of the Lord, Who promised him a quick release from his sufferings. The Great Martyr Mercurius was beheaded at Caesarea in Cappadocia. His holy body emitted a fragrance like myrrh and incense. Many of the sick were healed at his tomb.
Even after his death the warrior of Christ performed a soldier’s service for the good of the earthly Church. Saint Basil the Great (January 1) once prayed before an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, upon which Saint Mercurius was depicted as a soldier holding a spear. He asked God not to permit the emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) to return from his war against the Persians and resume his oppression of Christians. The image of the holy Great Martyr Mercurius, depicted on the icon beside the image of the Most Holy Theotokos, became invisible. It reappeared later with a bloodied spear.
At this very moment Julian the Apostate, on his Persian campaign, was wounded by the spear of an unknown soldier, who immediately disappeared. The mortally wounded Julian, as he lay dying, cried out, “Thou hast conquered, O Galilean!”
The Most Holy Theotokos, through the prayers of Saint Basil, had sent Saint Mercurius to defend the Christians from the apostate Julian. May we also be preserved from God’s foes, overcoming them through the prayers and assistance of Saint Mercurius.
The Holy Martyr Mercurius of Smolensk was a Slav by birth, probably from Moravia, the descendant of a princely line. Brought up in Orthodoxy, Saint Mercurius in zeal for the true Faith left his own native land for Russia, where he served in the army of the Prince of Smolensk. The saintly soldier secretly led an ascetic life. He was strict in fasting, he was chaste, spending his nights at prayer, and spiritually preparing himself to suffer for Christ. In the year 1239 a horde of Tatars [Mongols], already having laid waste to many Russian cities, appeared in the vicinity of Smolensk and set up camp 25 versts away at Dolgomost, threatening to destroy the city and its holy places.
A church warden, praying by night in the Smolensk cathedral before a wonderworking icon of the Theotokos, heard the voice of the Queen of Heaven commanding him to find the holy warrior and say to him: “Mercurius, go forth into battle, for the Sovereign Lady summons you.” The soldier went himself to the cathedral and heard the voice of the All-Pure Virgin, sending him to fight the enemy and promising him heavenly assistance.
The warrior of Christ set off that very night to the Tatar camp at Dolgomost. He fought there with the leader of the Tatar army, a giant possessed of immense strength. He killed him and entered into single-combat with the enemy host. Invoking the name of the Lord and of the All-Pure Theotokos, the holy warrior destroyed many of the enemy. The Tatar warriors watched with terror as lightning-bearing men and a radiant Woman aided Saint Mercurius in the fight. Unable to stand against the warrior of Christ, they retreated in flight. Saint Mercurius was himself killed in the battle by the son of the Tatar giant he had killed.
The inhabitants of Smolensk, saved through the miraculous intervention of the Lord and the Most Holy Theotokos, reverently buried the body of the soldier-martyr in the cathedral of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos. Soon after his death, Saint Mercurius appeared in a vision to the church warden and ordered that his armor be hung over his grave, promising the Smolensk people constant help and intervention in every sorrow and struggle. Even today the sandals of the holy Martyr Mercurius are still preserved in the Smolensk cathedral church. His Feast was established at the end of the sixteenth century, and in 1509 the inhabitants of Smolensk were already calling him their special patron.
Saint Mercurius of Kiev Caves pursued asceticism in the Farther Caves in the fourteenth century, and was strict in fasting. During his lifetime Saint Mercurius had a deep spiritual friendship with Saint Paisius, and when they died, they were buried in the same grave.
The November 24 commemoration of the saint is made because of his namesake, the holy Great Martyr Mercurius. He is also remembered on August 28, the Synaxis of the Saints of the Far Caves; and on the second Sunday of Great Lent, the Synaxis of all the monastic Fathers of the Kiev Caves.
As we read in the life of Saint Katherine, the Emperor Maximian ordered 50 of the Empire's most learned philosophers and rhetoricians to dispute with Great Martyr. As a result of her eloquent testimony, however, they embraced the Christian faith and were summarily burned alive by Maximian's order, after Saint Katherine made the Sign of the Cross over them.
Thereafter, the Empress Augusta, who had heard much about Katherine, wanted to see her. She prevailed upon the military commander Porphyrius to accompany her to the prison with a detachment of soldiers. The Empress was deeply impressed by the tenacious faith displayed by Saint Katherine, whose face was radiant with divine grace. After she had explained the Christian teaching to them, they too embraced the Christian faith.
The next day, Katherine was again brought to the judgment court where, under the threat of being broken on the wheel, she was urged to renounce the Christian Faith and offer sacrifice to the gods. She steadfastly confessed Christ and she herself approached the wheels, but an angel smashed the instruments of execution, which shattered into pieces. Having beheld this wonder, the Empress Augusta, Porphyrius and the detachment of 200 soldiers publicly confessed their faith in Christ. Enraged, Maximian again tried to entice Katherine to renounce her faith, proposing marriage to her, but again she refused his offer and firmly confessed her fidelity to the heavenly Bridegroom Christ. After offering a prayer to Him, she herself laid her head on the block beneath the executioner’s sword and was beheaded, as was the Empress Augusta, Porphyrius and the 200 soldiers.
The Nun Mastridia lived in Alexandria. She made a vow of virginity and she dwelt in unceasing prayer, keeping the fasts and keeping silence. The pure life of the holy virgin was beset by trials. A certain young man, attracted to her with impure desire, began to pursue her so that she could not even leave her home to go to church.
Grieving because she had unwillingly led the youth into temptation, and being zealous for his salvation, the saint invited him into her home. She asked what it was about her that made him bother her so much. He replied, “Your beautiful eyes!” Hearing this, she gouged them out with a needle she used for sewing. Thus she saved herself and the youth from temptation. He then repented and became a monk, living as a strict ascetic. Saint Mastridia finished her life in works for the Lord.
Saint Simon of Soiga belonged to the Komel disciples of Saint Sergius of Radonezh. He was born at Solvychegodsk, and was tonsured at the Komel monastery under Saint Cornelius (May 19). He passed through his obediences with such ascetics and disciples of Cornelius of Komel as Gennadius of Liubimsk (January 23), Cyril of New Lake (February 4), Herodion of Iloezersk (September 28), Adrian of Poshekhonsk (March 5), Laurence of Komel (May 16).
After the death of his mentor Saint Cornelius, Saint Simon was, for a certain time, the companion of Saint Longinus (February 10), the founder of the Koryazhemsk monastery, and went with him to dwell in the wilderness. After this he settled at the River Soiga, 60 versts from Koryazhma. There he established a church in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord, consecrated on May 17, 1541. After founding a monastery by this church, the saint was chosen igumen by the brethren.
Saint Simon died on November 24, 1562 and was buried in the monastery he founded, in the church dedicated to the holy Great Martyr Catherine, whose Feast is also observed on November 24.