SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY
Sunday after Epiphany, George of Hozeva, Domnica the Righteous of Constantinople, Atticus and Cyrus, Holy Patriarchs of Constantinople, Afterfeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Gregory of the Kiev Caves, Emilianos the Confessor, Bishop of Cyzikos, Pega the Virgin, Hermitess of Peakirk
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 4:7-13
BRETHREN, grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (in saying, “He ascended, ” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is he who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
At that time, when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The second day of the Afterfeast of Theophany falls on January 8. At Vespers we repeat a hymn which has already been sung at Compline for Theophany. In the hymn Saint John wonders in whose name he should baptize Christ. Should he baptize Him in the name of the Father? The Lord Jesus Christ already bears Him in Himself. Of the Son? He Himself is the incarnate Son of God. Of the Holy Spirit? Christ Himself sends the Spirit.
Saint George the Chozebite was born on the island of Cyprus toward the end of the sixth century. After the death of his parents, he went to Palestine to worship at the holy places. Here he entered into the monastic community of Chozeba between the River Jordan and Jerusalem, and he later became head of this monastery. Saint George presented the monks example in fasting, vigil and physical efforts. Having lived as an angel upon the earth, he died in peace.
Saint Domnica came from Carthage to Constantinople in the time of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great. Here she was baptized by Patriarch Nectarius and entered a women’s monastery.
Through strict and prolonged ascetic effort she attained to high spiritual perfection. The saint healed the sick, demonstrated power over the natural elements, and predicted the future. By her miracles the saint moved inhabitants of the capital towards concerns about life eternal and the soul. Adorned by virtues, the saint departed this life a spotless virgin in her old age.
Saint Emilian was a zealous defender of the holy icons during the reign of Emperor Leo the Armenian. He suffered torture and martyrdom in the year 820. His main feast is August 8.
Saint Gregory was tonsured at the Kiev Caves monastery in the time of Saint Theodosius (May 3). The saint devoted much time to reading books, which were his sole possession. He had the ability to bring thieves to their senses. Several times robbers broke in on him in his cell or in the garden, but the saint reasoned with them, the thieves repented, and began to lead honest lives.
Once, when the monk went to the Dnieper River for water, some servants of Prince Rostislav caught sight of the Elder and rudely began making fun of him. The saint answered them, “Children, when you should be asking for everyone’s prayers, you are displeasing God. Weep, for disaster approaches. Repent and ask God to be merciful to you on the Day of Judgment. All you will find death in the water with your prince.” By orders of the enraged Prince Rostislav, the monk was bound hand and foot, and he was drowned in the Dnieper with a stone around his neck. Still, his prediction came true. Rostislav did not return from the campaign. In that same year of 1093 the twenty-year-old prince drowned in sight of his brother, Vladimir Monomakh, trying to save himself as he fled from the Polovetsians.
Several sources identify Saint Gregory with Saint Gregory, a composer of Canons in honor of the holy Prince Vladimir, Saint Theodosius, and the holy Martyrs Boris and Gleb. But Saint Gregory, compiler of canons, lived later and died in about the year 1120. Saint Gregory the Wonderworker died in 1093 and was buried in the Near Caves. His memory is celebrated also on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Saint Gregory, Hermit of the Caves, lived during the fourteenth century. In the “Lives of the Saints Whose Relics lie in the Cave of Saint Theodosius,” it says that uncooked grass served as Saint Gregory’s food all his life. He gave this grass to those coming to him, and the sick were healed. He is also commemorated on August 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Saint Isidore was priest of Saint Nicholas church in the city of Yuriev (Derpto, at present Taru in Estonia). According to the terms of a treaty concluded in 1463 between the Moscow Great Prince Ivan III and the Livonian knights, the latter were obligated to extend every protection to the Orthodox at Derpto. But the Livonian knights (who were German Catholics) broke the treaty and tried to force the Orthodox to become Roman Catholics.
The priest Isidore bravely stood forth in defense of Orthodoxy, preferring to accept a martyr’s crown rather than submit to the Catholics. The Latin bishop and the Roman Catholic nobles of Yuriev had been told that Saint Isidore and the Orthodox population of the city had spoken against the faith and customs of the Germans.
When Saint Isidore and seventy-two of his parishioners went to bless the waters of the River Omovzha (or Emaiyga, now Emajogi) for the Feast of Theophany, they were arrested and brought before the Latin bishop Andrew and the civil judges of the city. Pressure was brought on them to convert to Catholicism, but the saint and his flock refused to renounce Christ or the Orthodox Faith. Enraged by this, the authorities had them thrown into prison.
Saint Isidore encouraged his flock to prepare themselves for death, and not to fear torture. He partook of the reserved Gifts he carried with him, then communed all the men, women, and children with the Holy and Life-Giving Mysteries of Christ.
Then the bishop and the judges summoned the Orthodox to appear before them once more, demanding that they convert to Catholicism. When they refused to do so, they were dragged back to the river and pushed through the hole in the ice that they had cut to bless the water. So they all suffered and died for Christ, Who bestowed on them crowns of unfading glory.
During the spring floods, the incorrupt bodies of the holy martyrs, including the fully-vested body of the hieromartyr Isidore, were found by Russian merchants journeying along the river bank. They buried the saints around the church of Saint Nicholas.
Although people began to venerate these saints shortly after their death, they were not officially glorified by the Church until 1897.
Saint Paisius of Uglich was igumen of the Protection monastery, near Uglich. He was born in the Tver district near the city of Kashin, and he was a nephew of Saint Macarius of Kalyazin (March 17).
Saint Paisius entered his uncle’s monastery after the death of his parents, when he was just an eleven-year-old child. Under his uncle’s guidance, Saint Paisius led a monastic life of obedience, fasting and prayer, and he was put to work copying soul-saving books.
“A man wondrous of spirit, famed teacher of holiness and most astounding wonderworker, he founded (in 1464) the cenobitic Protection monastery three versts from Uglich at the wish of Prince Andrew, and he was chosen igumen.” Saint Paisius was also “founder and organizer of the holy Nikolsky Grekhozaruchnya monastery in 1489.”
Struggling at the Protection monastery, Saint Paisius lived into old age and died on June 6, 1504. His relics, glorified by miracles, rest beneath a crypt in the Protection monastery.
Saint Carterius lived during the reign of Diocletian, and was a teacher in Caesarea of Cappadocia. He stood before a statue of Serapis and prayed to Christ, and the idol shattered to pieces. The procurator Urbanus ordered Saint Carterius to be tortured and then beheaded. Some, however, say he was killed with a spear.
Saint Theophilus the deacon suffered with Saint Helladius. After confessing Christ before the governor of Libya, they were tortured and slain.
The Holy Martyr Julian was born in the Egyptian city of Antinoe, and to satisfy his parents he entered into marriage with the noble and rich maiden, Basilissa. Though married, the spouses remained virginal. Upon the death of their parents they built two monasteries: one for men, and one for women. They themselves became monastics and headed these monasteries.
In the year 313, during the reign of Diocletian, Saint Julian suffered cruelly for his faith in Christ. By his bravery he converted Celsius, the son of his torturer the hegemon Marcian, and his wife, Marionilla. Having resurrected a dead pagan, the saint also converted him. The converts received Baptism from the priest Anthony. In Baptism the pagan was named Anastasius (i.e. “Resurrected”). After being locked in prison, they all received the crown of martyrdom, won through beheading by the sword. Also with them were twenty soldiers and seven youths.
Saint Elias the Egyptian became a monk and pursued asceticism for seventy-five years on a desolate mountain in a cave. He died in the fourth century at the age of 110.
In the 8th century a Saracen army tyrannized Kartli as a first step towards overturning the Georgian nation. The invaders were certain that the best way to conquer Georgia was to uproot the Christian Faith. The Georgian people were alarmed, and the clergy and the best sons of Kartli sought desperately for a resolution to this calamity. Much blood was shed in 766 when the Muslim invaders crushed an uprising in the eastern region of Kakheti.
In 772, Caliph Al Mansur (754-775), dissatisfied with the provincial governor of Kartli, Duke Nerse, summoned him to Baghdad. Nerse spent the following three years in captivity. During that time he became acquainted with a seventeen-year-old perfumer named Abo, and when he was released he brought Abo back with him to Georgia. Abo was amazed at the great piety of the Georgian people, and he began to learn the Georgian language, attend the divine services, and speak with local priests. Abo sought with all his heart to become a Christian, and he was eventually baptized in Khazaria, while in the company of Duke Nerse.
Later, Abo accompanied the duke to Abkhazeti, to escape the Saracen raids. Discovering an entire population of Christians praising Jesus Christ with one heart and mouth, Abo gave great thanks to God for the opportunity to visit this area. Nerse later returned to Kartli, but Abo remained at the request of the Abkhaz king, who feared that the Saracens would torture Abo for his devout faith in Christ. Soon, however, Abo became restless and told the king, “Let me go, and I will freely declare my Christian Faith to those who hate Christ!”
Abo labored in Tbilisi for three years, preaching the Christian Faith. Then his own former countrymen betrayed and captured him, but he was released soon after at the request of the duke Stepanoz.
A new emir was appointed to rule in Tbilisi, and when the Christians heard that he was plotting to capture Abo, they begged him to conceal his identity. But Abo simply rejoiced and told them, “I am prepared not only to be tortured for Christ, but to die for His sake as well.” As predicted, the emir’s servants captured Abo and brought him before a judge. The judge tried in vain to entice Abo to return to the faith of his ancestors. Then, in a rage, he ordered that Abo be cast into prison and that his hands and feet be fettered in chains. But his suffering for Christ filled the blessed Abo with even greater love, and he asked his Christian brothers and sisters to sell his clothes and use the money earned to buy candles and incense for local churches.
On the day of his execution Abo washed his face, anointed it with holy oil, partook of the Holy Gifts, and prepared for his death as though preparing for a feast. “Weep not, but rejoice, for I am going to my Lord. Pray for me, and may the peace of God protect you,” he cheerfully told the faithful Christians who surrounded him in his last hours.
When his time had come, Saint Abo placed his arms on his breast in the form of a cross and joyously bowed his head beneath the sword. The executioners swung their swords three times in hopes of frightening Abo into denying Christ, but the blessed Abo stood unyielding until his last breath. Finally, convinced that all their efforts and cunning were in vain, the executioners were given a sign and they beheaded the holy Abo. Defeated and ashamed, Abo’s godless executioners tossed his body, his garments, and the earth that had been soaked with his blood into a sack, dragged it outside the city, and burned it near the Mtkvari River. Then they wrapped his ashes in sheepskin and cast them into the river.
In the evening a sign was given from above. Next to the Metekhi Cliff, by the bridge, a shining star hung over the river with its bright light reflecting in the water where the remains of the saint rested. Later, a chapel was built in honor of Saint Abo on the left bank of the Mtkvari.
Saint Gregory was a faithful teacher and shepherd of Christ’s flock. An inscription in the church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) in Ochrid refers to him as “Gregory the Wise.”