CYRUS & JOHN THE UNMERCENARIES
Cyrus & John the Unmercenaries, Holy Women Martyrs Theodote, Theoktiste and Eudoxia, Our Righteous Father Arsenius of Parus, Elias Ardounis the New Righteous-Martyr of Mount Athos, Aed from Ferns
ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 12:27-31; 13:1-8
Brethren, you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
MATTHEW 10:1, 5-8
At that time, Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”
Saint Cyrus was a noted physician in the city of Alexandria, where he had been born and raised. He was a Christian and he treated the sick without charge, not only curing their bodily afflictions, but also healing their spiritual infirmities. He would say, “Whoever wishes to avoid being ill should refrain from sin, for sin is often the cause of bodily illness.” Preaching the Gospel, the holy physician converted many pagans to Christ. During the persecution by Diocletian (284-305), Saint Cyrus withdrew into Arabia, where he became a monk. He continued to heal people by his prayer, having received from God the gift to heal every sickness.
In the city of Edessa at this time lived the soldier John, a pious Christian. When the persecution started, he went to Jerusalem and there he heard about Saint Cyrus. He began to search for him, going first to Alexandria and then to Arabia. When Saint John finally found Saint Cyrus, he remained with him and became his faithful follower.
They learned of the arrest of the Christian woman Athanasia and her three young daughters. Theoctiste was fifteen; Theodota, was thirteen; and Eudoxia, was eleven. Saints Cyrus and John hastened to the prison to help them. They were concerned that faced with torture, the women might renounce Christ.
Saints Cyrus and John gave them courage to endure what lay before them. Learning of this, the ruler of the city arrested Saints Cyrus and John, and seeing their steadfast and fearless confession of faith in Christ, he brought Athanasia and her daughters to witness their torture. The tyrant did not refrain from any form of torture against the holy martyrs. The women were not frightened by the sufferings of Saints Cyrus and John, but courageously continued to confess Christ. They were flogged and then beheaded, receiving their crowns of martyrdom.
At the same place they executed the Holy Unmercenaries Cyrus and John. Christians buried their bodies in the church of the holy Evangelist Mark. In the fifth century the relics of Saints Cyrus and John were transferred from Canopis to Manuphin. Later on their relics were transferred to Rome, and from there to Munchen (Munich) (another account is located under June 28).
Saints Cyrus and John are invoked by those who have difficulty in sleeping.
Saint Nikḗtas, Bishop of Novgorod, in his youth entered the Kiev Caves monastery and soon wished to become a hermit. The igumen cautioned him that such an exploit was premature for a young monk, but he, trusting in his own strength, would not listen.
In the hermitage Saint Nikḗtas fell into temptation. The devil appeared to him in the guise of an angel, and the inexperienced ascetic bowed down to him. The devil gave him advice, speaking as if to one who had attained perfection: “Don’t bother to pray, just read and study other things, and I shall pray in your place.” He stood near the hermit, giving the appearance of praying. The deceived monk Nikḗtas came to surpass everyone in his knowledge of the Books of the Old Testament, but he would not speak about the Gospel, nor did he wish to hear it read.
The Elders of the Kiev Caves went to the monk, and after they had prayed, they expelled the devil from him. After this Saint Nikḗtas remained a hermit with the blessing of the Elders, and lived in strict fasting and prayer, surpassing everyone in obedience and humility.
Through the prayer of the holy Elders, the merciful Lord brought him up from the depths of his fall to a high degree of spiritual perfection. Afterwards, he was made Bishop of Novgorod, and for his holy life God granted him the gift of wonderworking. Once, during a time of drought, he brought rain from the heavens by his prayers. Another time, he stopped a fire in the city. Saint Nikḗtas guided the Novgorod flock for thirteen years, and then peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in 1109.
In 1558, during the reign of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich, Bishop Nikḗtas was glorified as a saint. His relics now rest in the church of the holy Apostle Philip in Novgorod. He is also commemorated on May 14.
Saint Nikḗtas is invoked for protection against lightning and fire. People also turn to the Most Holy Theotokos, glorified in her “Unburnt Bush” Icon (September 4), for this purpose.
The Holy Martyrs Victorinus, Victor, Nikēphóros, Claudius, Diodorus, Serapion, and Papias suffered at Corinth in 251, during a persecution under the emperor Decius (249-251). Saints Victorinus, Victor and Nikēphóros were tied to a stone mortar and crushed by a huge stone pestle. Saint Claudius died after his hands and feet were cut off. Saint Diodorus was burned, Saint Serapion beheaded, and Saint Papias was drowned in the sea.
Saint Tryphaίnē was from Kyzikos on the Hellespont and was the daughter of devout parents, Senator Anastasios and his virtuous wife Sokratia.
She revealed her Christian upbringing and courage during a persecution where, in order to strengthen those who were weak, she boldly confessed her faith in Christ, and in the ultimate triumph of Orthodoxy. As soon as the ruler Caesarius heard these things he became enraged and ordered the Saint's arrest. His order was carried out and the tortures began.
First, Saint Tryphaίnē was pushed into a fiery furnace, but miraculously, she was saved. Then, she was thrown from a tall tree, onto a bed of iron nails. Afterward, she was given to some wild animals to be devoured by them, but they did not harm her. Finally, she was gored by a mad bull. In this manner, the Saint received the glorious crown of martyrdom in the first century.
It is said that a spring of pure water welled up at the place where Saint Tryphaίnē's blood was shed. After drinking this water, women who gave birth, but did not have any milk, were able to produce milk to feed their newborn children.
Saint Tryphaίnē is invoked by women who have difficulty in nursing their babies.
Saint Arsenius was born on January 31, 1800 in Ioannina, Epirus of pious Orthodox parents. In holy Baptism he was given the name Athanasius. His parents died when he was quite young. He was only nine years old when he made his way to Kydoniai, Asia Minor, where he was received by Hieromonk Gregory Saraphis and enrolled in his school. His humility and piety endeared him to Father Gregory and also to the other teachers. The boy remained at the school for five years, surpassing the other students in learning and in virtue.
One day the renowned Spiritual Father Daniel of Zagora, Thessaly came to the school to hear confessions. Athanasius became Daniel’s disciple, remaining with him until the latter’s death.
Not long after this, Father Daniel decided to go to the Holy Mountain for quiet and spiritual struggles. Athanasius begged his Elder not to leave him, but to take him with him. He expressed the desire to travel to Mt. Athos, the Garden of the All-Holy Virgin, and to become a monk.
Father Daniel instructed Athanasius in the monastic life, which is called “the art of arts, and the science of sciences.” The holy Elder was a perfect teacher who was accomplished in the spiritual life, and Athanasius was an attentive student. After a time Father Daniel tonsured his pupil, and told him he had to learn three important lessons. First, he must cut off his own will. Secondly, he must acquire humility. Finally, he must learn obedience. “If you cut off your will, if you become humble, and if you practice perfect obedience, you will also make progress in the other virtues, and God will glorify you.”
After a further period of testing, Father Daniel tonsured Athanasius into the Great Schema and gave him the name Arsenius. The saint remained on Mt. Athos with his Elder for six years. Then they had to leave the Holy Mountain because of the agitation against the so-called “Kollyvades,” who called for a strict adherence to Holy Tradition. The name comes from the kollyva (boiled wheat) used in the memorial service. Part of the controversy involved the debate on whether it was proper to serve memorial services for the dead on Sunday. The Kollyvades believed that these services were inappropriate for the Day of Resurrection, but should be served on Saturday. The Kollyvades advocated frequent Communion, rather than the practice of receiving the Holy Mysteries only a few times during the year. When Father Daniel and Saint Arsenius left Athos, it was probably due to the animosity of those who opposed the Kollyvades.
Early in 1821, before the Greek War of Independence, they went to the Monastery of Pendeli near Athens. Their stay was a brief one, for Father Daniel forsaw the destruction of the monastery by the Turks.
The two made their way to the Cyclades Islands in the southern Aegean Sea. First they stopped at Paros, perhaps because some of the Kollyvades had settled there. Eventually, they decided to live on the island of Pholegandros. Since there were no teachers for the children, the inhabitants entreated Father Daniel to allow Saint Arsenius to instruct their children. The Elder agreed, and had Arsenius ordained as a deacon. Then he was appointed to the teaching post by the government.
The saint remained there as a teacher from 1829-1840. He taught the required subjects in school, but he also helped his students to form a good character, and to live as pious Christians.
In 1840 Saint Arsenius entered the Monastery of Saint George on the island of Paros. Elder Daniel had passed away in 1837. Before his repose, he asked his disciple to take his remains to Mt. Athos after two years. Saint Arsenius left Plolegandros in obedience to Father Daniel’s request, planning to stop on Paros then continue to the Holy Mountain. On Paros the abbot of Saint George’s Monastery, Father Elias Georgiadis, told Saint Arsenius that it was God’s will for him to remain on Paros. This was providential, because Mt. Athos was undergoing great difficulty after the Greek War of Independence. 3,000 Turkish soldiers occupied Athos, resulting in the departure of 5,000 of the 6,000 monks.
Saint Arsenius joined the community at Saint George’s Monastery on the northern end of Paros. There he found spiritual strivers of true wisdom and excellent conduct, who were worthy models for him to follow.
When he was ordained to the holy priesthood at the age of forty-seven, Saint Arsenius intensified his spiritual efforts. Every day he studied the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Fathers, and became adept at the unceasing prayer of the heart. He also began to show forth the gift of tears. In this, he resembled his patron Saint Arsenius the Great (May 8), who continuously wept tears of contrition.
Gradually, the inhabitants of Paros came to recognize him as an outstanding Father Confessor and spiritual guide. Whenever he stood before the holy altar, he felt that he was standing before God. He served with great compunction, and his face often became radiant like the face of an angel.
As his virtues became known to people, they flocked to him from near and far. He received all with paternal affection, treating each one with the proper spiritual medicine which would restore their souls to health.
A certain girl from Syros came to the Convent of the Transfiguration to visit her sister, who was a nun. The nun had previously been informed that her sister had fallen into a serious sin. When she learned that the girl was outside the doors of the convent, the nun screamed at her, “Go far away from here. Since you are defiled, you will defile the convent and the nuns.” Instead of feeling pity for her sister, and trying to lead her to repentance, the nun and some of the other nuns struck the poor girl and told her to go away.
The wretched girl cried, “I have made a mistake. Forgive me!”
The nun shrieked, “Go away, or I will kill you to wash away the shame you have brought to our family.”
“Have you no pity, my sister, don’t you share my pain?”
“No,” the nun shouted, “you are not my sister, you are a foul harlot.”
“Where shall I go?” she sobbed.
“Go and drown yourself,” was the heartless reply.
The poor girl fled from the convent, bleeding and wounded, intending to kill herself. At that very moment, Saint Arsenius was on his way to visit the convent. Seeing the girl in such a state, he asked her what was wrong. She explained that she had been led astray by corrupt men and women. Realizing her sin, she went to the convent to ask her sister for help
“See what they have done to me, Elder. What do you advise me to do? Shall I drown myself, or leap off a cliff?”
“I do not advise you to do either, my child. If you wish, I shall take you with me and heal the wounds of your soul and body,” he said gently.
“Where will you take me?” the miserable girl asked.
“To the convent, my child.”
“I beg you not to take me there, Elder. My sister and the other nuns said they would kill me if I came back.”
The saint replied, “Do not be afraid. They will not kill you, because I shall entrust you to Christ, and no one will be able to harm you.”
“Very well,” she said, “If you entrust me to Christ I will not be afraid of them, for Christ is more powerful than they.”
Saint Arsenius led her to the convent, consoling her and encouraging her to repentance and confession. After hearing her confession, he made her a nun. Then he called all the nuns into the church and severely rebuked those who wounded the girl. He reminded them of the parable of the Prodigal Son, and of how Christ had come to save sinners. He often associated with sinners, showing them great love and mercy.
“You, however, have done the opposite. Though you knew that her soul had been wounded by the devil, you did not feel sorry for her. You did not embrace her and try to save her from further sin, but you attacked her and beat her. Then you urged her to kill herself. Now I, your Spiritual Father, tell you that you are not nuns, you are not Christians, you are not even human beings. You are devoid of compassion, affection, and sympathy. You are murderesses! Therefore, I forbid you to receive Holy Communion for three years, unless you recognize your sin. Repent and confess, weep and ask forgiveness from God and from me, your Spiritual Father, and from the other nuns who did not participate in your sinful behavior.”
The nuns began to weep bitterly and they repented. Thus, he lessened their penance and forgave them. He gave the girl’s sister the penance of not receiving Holy Communion for a whole year. Because the other nuns had shared in this sin, he would not permit them to receive Communion for six months.
Saint Arsenius foresaw his death a month before it occurred. At the Liturgy for the Feast of Saint Basil, he announced that he would soon depart from them. With great effort, he was able to serve for the Feast of the Theophany. After the service, he told some nuns that this had been his last Liturgy.
News of the saint’s illness and approaching death spread quickly to all the villages of Paros. People wept because they were about to lose their Spiritual Father, and they hastened to bid him farewell and to receive his blessing.
On the eve of his repose, he called the nuns of the convent to come to him. He told them that the next day he would leave this temporary life and enter into eternal life.
On January 31, 1877 Saint Arsenius received Holy Communion for the last time and fell asleep in the Lord. For three days, people came to kiss his body, then they followed the funeral procession to the burial site which he himself had selected.
Saint Arsenius of Paros was glorified by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 1967. He is also commemorated on August 18 (the uncovering of his relics).
Saint Julius was born in 330 on the island of Aegina to wealthy and pious parents who nurtured him in the discipline and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). He learned to read and write, and then he studied in Athens with Saints Basil (January 1) and Gregory (January 25). After returning to Aegina, he and Deacon Julian decided to emulate Saint Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, and to preach Christ.
The two Saints took up their apostolic staves (Mark 6:8) and offered themselves to the Lord. Julius was ordained as a priest by the Bishop of Athens. Adorned with the grace of the priesthood, he set off with Deacon Julian to proclaim the Gospel and to baptize many Gentiles.
At the end of his life he withdrew to Kousion on Lake Orta, where, after a life of asceticism and prayer, he reposed peacefully in 401 at the age of 71.