AFTERFEAST OF THE THEOPHANY OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST
Afterfeast of the Theophany of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Tatiana the Martyr of Rome, Basil and John the Hieromartyrs, Martyr Mertios, Euthasia the Virgin-Martyr, Peter of Absalom, Benedict
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 18:22-28
IN THOSE DAYS, when Paul had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesos. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
At that time, the Jews tried to arrest Jesus, but he escaped from their hands. He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there he remained. And many came to him; and they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” And many believed in him there.
The sixth day of the Afterfeast of Theophany falls on January 12. Divine grace shines forth so that we might be freed from the power of the devil, and cleansed of our sins in Baptism.
“He who once assumed the appearance of a malignant serpent and implanted death in the creation, is now cast into
darkness by Christ’s coming in the flesh….” (Ode 3, second Canon at Matins).
“Through the Spirit and by the grace that comes through water, He grants a new birth to all who acknowledge His divinity, delivering them from their faults” (Ode 6, first Canon at Matins).
The Holy Virgin Martyr Tatiana was born into an illustrious Roman family, and her father was elected consul three times. He was secretly a Christian and raised his daughter to be devoted to God and the Church. When she reached the age of maturity, Tatiana decided to remain a virgin, betrothing herself to Christ. Disdaining earthly riches, she sought instead the imperishable wealth of Heaven. She was made a deaconess in one of the Roman churches and served God in fasting and prayer, tending the sick and helping the needy.
When Rome was ruled by the sixteen-year-old Alexander Severus (222-235), all power was concentrated in the hands of the regent Ulpian, an evil enemy and persecutor of Christians. Christian blood flowed like water. Tatiana was also arrested, and they brought her into the temple of Apollo to force her to offer sacrifice to the idol. The saint began praying, and suddenly there was an earthquake. The idol was smashed into pieces, and part of the temple collapsed and fell down on the pagan priests and many pagans. The demon inhabiting the idol fled screeching from that place. Those present saw its shadow flying through the air.
Then they tore holy virgin’s eyes out with hooks, but she bravely endured everything, praying for her tormentors that the Lord would open their spiritual eyes. And the Lord heard the prayer of His servant. The executioners saw four angels encircle the saint and beat her tormentors. A voice was heard from the heavens speaking to the holy virgin. Eight men believed in Christ and fell on their knees before Saint Tatiana, begging them to forgive them their sin against her. For confessing themselves Christians they were tortured and executed, receiving Baptism by blood.
The next day Saint Tatiana was brought before the wicked judge. Seeing her completely healed of all her wounds, they stripped her and beat her, and slashed her body with razors. A wondrous fragrance then filled the air. Then she was stretched out on the ground and beaten for so long that the servants had to be replaced several times. The torturers became exhausted and said that an invisible power was beating them with iron rods. Indeed, the angels warded off the blows directed at her and turned them upon the tormentors, causing nine of them to fall dead. They then threw the saint in prison, where she prayed all night and sang praises to the Lord with the angels.
A new morning began, and they took Saint Tatiana to the tribunal once more. The torturers beheld with astonishment that after such terrible torments she appeared completely healthy and even more radiant and beautiful than before. They began to urge her to offer sacrifice to the goddess Diana. The saint seemed agreeable, and they took her to the heathen temple. Saint Tatiana made the Sign of the Cross and began to pray. Suddenly, there was a crash of deafening thunder, and lightning struck the idol, the sacrificial offerings and the pagan priests.
Once again, the martyr was fiercely tortured. She was hung up and scraped with iron claws, and her breasts were cut off. That night, angels appeared to her in prison and healed her wounds as before. On the following day, they took Saint Tatiana to the circus and loosed a hungry lion on her. The beast did not harm the saint, but meekly licked her feet.
As they were taking the lion back to its cage, it killed one of the torturers. They threw Tatiana into a fire, but the fire did not harm the martyr. The pagans, thinking that she was a sorceress, cut her hair to take away her magical powers, then locked her up in the temple of Zeus.
On the third day, pagan priests came to the temple intending to offer sacrifice to Zeus. They beheld the idol on the floor, shattered to pieces, and the holy martyr Tatiana joyously praising the Lord Jesus Christ. The judge then condemned the valiant sufferer to be beheaded with a sword. Her father was also executed with her, because he had raised her to love Christ.
The Relics of Saint Tatiana in Craiova
The honorable head of the Holy Martyr Tatiana was first brought to Romania in 1204, when members of the ruling family (Asanestan dynasty) placed it in a church in Tarnovo (Bulgaria) and then in Bucovat Monastery (near Craiova). Later, however, in 1393, the head of the Saint was taken to a church in the town of Nicaea (where the First Ecumenical Synod met), and then to Constantinople, and placed in the Church of the Holy Apostles.
In 1453, after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks, during the reign of Neagoe Basarab, the Craioveşti boyars brought the head of the holy Martyr Tatiana to this country, as well as the entire body of Saint Gregory the Decapolite (November 20), which they placed in the church of Bistriţa Monastery. From that monastery, the relics of Saint Tatiana were taken by Saint Neagoe Basarab (September 15) and brought to the royal church at Curtea de Argeș. Later, with the reorganization of the Metropolitan Church of Oltenia (1950-1955), the honorable skull of Saint Tatiana was taken from Curtea de Argeș and brought to the Episcopal Cathedral of Râmnicu Vâlcea in 1955. Finally, the honored relics were permanently enshrined in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Craiova.
Today, the holy relics of Saint Tatiana are kept, with great honor, in the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Great Martyr Demetrios in Craiova, in the same reliquary with the relics of Saint Niphon of Constantinople (August 11), and the Holy Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus (October 7).
Saint Martinian of White Lake, in the world Michael, was born in the year 1370 in the village of Berezniko, not far from the Cyrilov monastery. At age thirteen he left his parents and went secretly to Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9), whom many described as a great ascetic.
The young Martinian began zealously to imitate his teacher, with whom he dwelt in complete obedience. At the monastery he studied reading and writing, and with the blessing of Saint Cyril, he occupied himself with the copying of books. In time Martinian was ordained deacon and then hieromonk.
After the death of Saint Cyril (+ 1427), Martinian withdrew to a deserted island on Lake Vozha. Several monks gradually gathered around him. Saint Martinian established for them the church of the Transfiguration of the Lord and introduced a general Rule for the inhabitants. Yielding to the persistent requests of the brethren of Therapon monastery, he consented to become igumen of the monastery and brought it into an improved condition.
Saint Martinian gave spiritual support to Great Prince Basil in the difficulties of his time, when his first-cousin Demetrius Shemyaka illicitly sought the Moscow throne. He was always an advocate of truth and justice. Afterwards, upon the entreaty of the Great Prince, the saint accepted the governance of the monastery of Saint Sergius of Radonezh.
In 1455, Saint Martinian returned to the Therapon monastery. In his last years he was grievously ill and not able to walk, so the brethren carried him to church. He died at age 85. His relics were uncovered in the year 1514, and this event is celebrated on October 7.
The Holy Martyr Mertius was a soldier. He suffered for Christ in Africa during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). The emperor demanded that he offer sacrifice to idols, and when he refused, gave him over to torture. The saint suffered fierce torments, not making a sound. He was thrown into prison, where he died from hunger and his wounds.
The Holy Martyr Peter Apselamus was a native of the village of Aneia in Palestine. During the fourth century persecution against Christians he was arrested and brought to Severus, the governor of Palestine. In vain did the judge and the people urge him to escape torture by sacrificing to the pagan gods.
“I will spare myself by remaining faithful to the truth and refusing to offer sacrifice to lifeless idols,” the saint replied. “Whoever offers sacrifice to false gods will perish.”
Severus was enraged, and ordered the holy martyr to be tortured without mercy. Finally, he was crucified during the reign of Maximian, while our Lord Jesus Christ was reigning unto the ages of ages.
In some Lives of the Saints he is listed twice: on January 12 as the martyr Peter Apselamus, and on January 13 as Peter of Aneia, because it was mistakenly assumed that they were different persons.
Saint Eupraxia the Elder was the mother of Saint Eupraxia, maiden of Tabennisi (July 25). She was the wife of the pious senator Antigonus, who was related to the emperor Theodosius the Great (379-395). Following the birth of their daughter, the couple decided to live from that time forward as brother and sister. They distributed alms to the poor, hoping to inherit the heavenly Kingdom.
After she was widowed, Saint Eupraxia devoted herself completely to the service of the Lord. After visiting several monastic establishments and bestowing liberal alms, she came to the Tabennisi monastery in Egypt, where the abbess was the nun Theodula, known for her strict rule.
Deeply moved by the pure way of monastic life, Saint Eupraxia came often to this monastery and always brought her eight-year-old daughter with her. The virtues and prayers of her parents bestowed a particular grace of God upon the child, who desired to dedicate herself to God. To her mother’s great joy, the abbess Theodula kept the younger Eupraxia at the convent and blessed her to receive monastic tonsure.
Saint Eupraxia the elder continued her works of charity, and increased her fasting and prayer. Abbess Theodula, possessing the gift of clairvoyance, told her of her impending end. Learning of her imminent death, Eupraxia gave thanks to the Lord for His great mercy towards her. She bid farewell to the sisters of the convent and to her daughter. She left her with these parting words: “Love the Lord Jesus Christ, and respect the sisters. Never dare to think that they are below you and should serve you. Be poor in your thoughts in order to profit by spiritual treasures. Also remember your father and me, and pray for the salvation of our souls.” After three days the saint surrendered her soul to the Lord (+ 393) and was buried at the monastery, where her daughter continued her ascetic struggles.
The “Akathist” Icon of the Mother of God is on the iconostasis of the Hilandar monastery’s katholikon. It is known as the “Akathist” Icon because, during a fire at the katholikon in 1837 an Akathist was being read before the icon, and it remained unharmed, to the joy of the monks.
This icon should not be confused with the Zographou Icon “Of the Akathist” (October 10).
The “Milk-Giver” Icon of the Mother of God was originally located at the Lavra of Saint Savva the Sanctified near Jerusalem. Before his death, the holy founder of the Lavra foretold that a royal pilgrim having the same name as himself would visit the Lavra. Saint Savva told the brethren to give the wonderworking icon to that pilgrim as a blessing.
In the thirteenth century, Saint Savva of Serbia visited the Lavra. As he approached the reliquary of Saint Savva the Sanctified, the saint’s staff fell at his feet. The brethren asked the visitor his name, and he told them he was Archbishop Savva of Serbia. Obeying the instructions of their founder, the monks gave Saint Savva his staff, the “Milk-Giver” Icon, and the Icon “Of the Three Hands” (June 28 & July 12).
The holy archbishop took the icon to Hilandar on Mount Athos and put it on the right side of the iconostasis in the church of Saint Savva at the kellion of Karyes, which is attached to Hilandar. The icon was later named Typikonissa, since the Rule (Typikon) of Saint Savva was preserved there.
The “Priestly” Icon of the Mother of God stands in the katholikon of Hilandar Monastery by a column of the left kliros. A certain heretical priest, having declared himself Orthodox, acted at the Hilandar monastery with evil purpose, but he was punished. During the procession for the blessing of water he took this icon but stumbled, fell into the sea and drowned. Since that time the cross procession is always done with this icon, and invariably a priest carries it, so it was called “Priestly” by the Serbs.
On the first Sunday after Theophany (January 7-13), we celebrate the memory of the Virgin Martyrs Neollina, Domnina and Parthena (Νεολλίνα, Δομνίνα, Παρθένα) of Edessa in the Holy Metropolis of Edessa and Pella.
Nothing is known about Saints Neollina and Domnina, but only about Saint Parthena. The Holy Virgin Martyr Parthena came from Edessa in Macedonia and was born in the 14th century. Her life was in accord with her virginal name, for she lived ascetically, and with the utmost modesty.
In the year 1375 Edessa was besieged by the Turks, and the residents put up a strong defense, aided and encouraged by Hieromonk Seraphim, the rector of the cathedral of the Dormition of the Theotokos. The enemy was perfectly organized and numerous, but it as it happened, they were preparing to end the siege.
At the last minute, Peter, one of the city's priests, who was Parthena's father, was paid a large sum of money by the Turkish Pasha, and so he betrayed the city.
The Turks invaded Edessa on December 26, 1375 from the southeast, where he was on guard, and where one of the major battles for the city took place. Afterward, its citizens were massacred or sold into slavery; homes were looted, and women were raped. Hieromonk Seraphim was arrested and subjected to severe torments, and then he was drowned in the great waterfall called "Itseri Pasha" (the Pasha's water).
The traitor Peter, after his heinous act which led to the fall of the city, denied Christ and became a Muslim. As if that were not enough, he also gave his daughter Parthena to the Pasha as a concubine, because he was unable to persuade her to deny Christ. After hearing her father's words, Saint Parthena, like another Saint Barbara, shuddered, and with spiritual courage she told her wretched father that she would never deny the sweetest name of her heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. Instead of being put to shame and moved to repentance, he became angry and behaved like a wild beast. He beat the Saint until she was bloody and unconscious. Then he stripped her and handed her over to the Turks. The soldiers tortured her for three days. In the end, she was led up a hillside, where she was buried alive. To this day, the hill is called Parthena's Hill.
As shocking as the father's conduct may seem, the Savior predicted that such atrocities would take place: "Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by everyone for my name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:21-22).
Through the prayers of the Holy Virgin Martyr Parthena, may the Lord strengthen us to persevere until the end of our earthly lives, and make us worthy of a small corner of Paradise.