VENERATION OF APOSTLE PETER’S PRECIOUS CHAINS
Veneration of Apostle Peter’s Precious Chains, Righteous Hierodeacon Makarios of Kalogeras, Romilo the Monk of Mount Athos, Nicholas the New-Martyr of Mytilene, Peusippos, Elasippos, and Mesippos the siblings, and their grandmother Neonilla
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 12:1-11
About that time, Herod the king laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword; and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church.
The very night when Herod was about to bring him out, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison; and behold, an angel of the Lord appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, "Get up quickly." And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, "Wrap your mantle around you and follow me." And he went out and followed him; he did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened to them of its own accord, and they went out and passed on through one street; and immediately the angel left him. And Peter came to himself, and said, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.
At that time, Jesus revealed himself to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. And he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.” Peter turned and saw following them the disciple whom Jesus loved, who had lain close to his breast at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” The saying spread abroad among the brethren that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is bearing witness to these things, and who has written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did; were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.
The Veneration of the Honorable Chains of the Holy and All-Praised Apostle Peter: In about the year 42, on the orders of Herod Agrippa, the Apostle Peter was thrown into prison for preaching about Christ the Savior. In prison he was held secure by two iron chains. During the night before his trial, an angel of the Lord removed these chains from the Apostle Peter and led him out from the prison (Acts 12:1-11).
Christians who learned of the miracle took the chains and kept them as precious keepsakes. For three centuries the chains were kept in Jerusalem, and those who were afflicted with illness and approached them with faith received healing. Patriarch Juvenal (July 2) presented the chains to Eudokia, wife of the emperor Theodosius the Younger, and she in turn transferred them from Jerusalem to Constantinople in either the year 437 or 439.
Eudokia sent one chain to Rome to her daughter Eudoxia (the wife of Valentinian), who built a church on the Esquiline hill dedicated to the Apostle Peter and placed the chain in it. There were other chains in Rome, with which the Apostle Peter was shackled before his martyrdom under the emperor Nero. These were also placed in the church.
On January 16, the chains of Saint Peter are brought out for public veneration.
Blessed Maximus Makar'ev was a priest in the city of Tot'ma (Vologda Diocese) during the first half of the XVII century, and his father was a priest. Saint Maximus was also ordained to the priesthood, and for 45 years he voluntarily undertook the difficult spiritual exploit of foolishness for Christ's sake, spending his time in unceasing prayer, fasting, and nakedness, completely neglecting to take care of his body.
Father Maximus was already distinguished by grace-filled gifts from God during his lifetime. He reposed at an advanced age on January 16, 1650 and was buried near the Resurrection church of Varnitsa in the city of Tot'ma. His laborious and holy life, and the miraculous cures which flowed from his tomb, served as an incentive to write his Life, but it was destroyed in 1676 during a fire in the church of the Resurrection. A new Life was composed in 1680, and it was lost as well. Meanwhile, the miracles continued at the righteous one's tomb.
Local veneration of the Saint began in 1715, because of the numerous miracles which occurred at his grave. In that year, the Priest John Rokhletsov and the parishioners of Holy Resurrection church asked Archbishop Joseph of Great Ustyug to allow them to place a sepulcher over the relics of Saint Maximus in the church of Saint Paraskevḗ, which was built over his relics, and to put an Icon of the Saint on the tomb. Vladyka granted their petition and gave his blessing for Molebens to be served for him, as is done for other God-pleasers. At that time, everyone still remembered the miracles which took place at the tomb of Blessed Maximus, and these miracles were depicted on the borders of the icon which adorned the God-pleaser’s tomb.
In 1680, Boris Tarunin, a resident of Tot'ma, fell ill with a fever and was paralyzed for six months. When he prayed to the righteous Maximus for the help, he was healed right away.
In 1691, the peasant Aréthas Malevinsky was bed-ridden for nine weeks with a fever. When he began to call upon Saint Maximus for help, his illness completely disappeared.
The peasant Theodore Mamoshov was paralyzed for nine years. On the night of November 5, 1703, he dreamt that an old man, clad in just a shirt, approached his bedside and said to him, "Theodore, cease your grieving." Taking him by the shoulder, he led him into the church and commanded him to venerate his grave. When he awakened, Theodore felt so well that he was able to walk to the church of the Resurrection in order to venerate the tomb of his healer.
In 1705, Anna Tataurova had not been in her right mind for a month. One night, Saint Maximus appeared to her in a dream, telling her to have two Panikhidas served at his tomb, promising her that she would recover if she did this. When the sick girl woke up, she asked to be taken to the righteous one's tomb. After the two Panikhidas were served, she felt perfectly well.
Blessed Maximus is also commemorated on the third Sunday of Pentecost, the Synaxis of the Vologda Saints.
The Holy Martyrs Speusippus, Eleusippus, Meleusippus, and their grandmother Leonilla together with Neon, Turbo and Jonilla suffered in Gaul (by another account, in Cappadocia) in the second century, during the persecution under Marcus Aurelius (161-180).
Leonilla received Baptism in her old age from one of the disciples of Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, and she afterwards converted her three grandsons (who were triplets) to Christ. The brothers, in their zeal for the Lord, pulled down idols and reproached the pagans for their folly. The judge ordered Leonilla to go to the prison and tell her grandchildren to renounce Christ and worship the idols. Instead, she praised them for their bravery and their firm confession of faith. All three were hanged on a tree, then flogged. Finally, the martyrs were thrown into a fire, but their bodies were undamaged by the flames.
After the torture and death of her grandchildren, Saint Leonilla was beheaded with a sword. Saint Jonilla also suffered with her. She saw the steadfast faith of the holy martyrs and said that she too was a Christian. The torturers hung her up by the hair, lacerated her body, then beheaded her. She left behind her husband and young son.
Saint Neon witnessed the exploits of the holy brothers, and wrote an account of their sufferings. He gave his manuscript to Turbo, and openly confessed himself a Christian, for which he was fiercely beaten and died from his beating.
Saint Turbo, after he copied out the exploits of the passion-bearers, also ended his life by martyrdom. These martyrs are particularly revered in Spain, where many churches are dedicated to them. The relics of the holy martyrs were given by the Byzantine emperor Zeno to a French nobleman from the city of Langres, where they now rest.
The Holy Martyr Danax lived during the second century and served as reader at a church in Auleneia in Macedonia. During an invasion by pagans, the saint took the church vessels and intended to hide them, but he was seized by soldiers. Refusing to worship their loathsome idols, he was stabbed with a sword.
Saint Honoratus was born in Gaul (modern France) about 350, and came from a distinguished Roman family. After a pilgrimage to Greece and Rome, he became a hermit on the isle of Lerins, where he was joined by Saints Lupus of Troyes (July 29), Eucherius of Lyons (November 16), and Hilary of Arles (May 5), among others.
The saint depleted his youthful vigor through fasting and asceticism, and so “the powers of the body made way for the power of the spirit.” Though in poor health, he managed to follow the same rule of fasting and keeping vigil as those who were younger and stronger than he. He would visit the sick when he was even sicker than they were, offering consolation for body and soul. Then, fearing he had not done enough for them, he would review each case in his mind to determine how he could ease their suffering.
Adorned with virtues, Saint Honoratus treated a variety of spiritual diseases, freeing many from their enslavement to vice. His insight into each person’s character enabled him to apply the appropriate remedies for restoring souls to spiritual health.
Saint Honoratus died in 429 shortly after being consecrated as Bishop of Arles. Saint Hilary, his relative and successor, delivered a eulogy which still survives.
The Hieromartyr Damascene the New was born in the village of Gabrovo of the Trnovo diocese in Bulgaria. He left his home as a young man and went to the Hilandar monastery on Mount Athos. Over time, he was ordained deacon and priest, fulfilling various obediences in the monastery. Later he was chosen as the igumen.
Saint Damascene often journeyed to various places on monastery business. One day Father Damascene was sent to Svishtov [Svištov, in Serbian], Bulgaria to collect rent from a Moslem on some property owned by the monastery. To avoid paying the debt, the man sent a Moslem woman to the room where the saint was staying. Then he and others broke in and accused Father Damascene of impropriety. If he was found guilty, he could be put to death.
The kadi (judge) did not believe that Father Damascene was guilty of the charges, but since the other Moslems had given false testimony against him, the judge had to find him guilty. Before taking him to be executed, he was given the choice of being put to death, or of saving his life by converting to Islam. The saint replied, “I was born a Christian, and I shall die a Christian; for to deny Christ is to forfeit eternal life. It would be madness if I agreed to preserve this temporary life in exchange for eternal perdition. I am sorry for you if you do not understand this.”
Seeing that nothing would induce the saint to deny Christ and accept their religion, the Moslems brought him to the place of execution. Saint Damascene asked for some time to pray, and his request was granted. After completing his prayers he made the Sign of the Cross and told them that he was ready. The holy New Martyr Damascene was hanged at Svishtov on January 16, 1771, and received an incorruptible crown of glory from Christ.
The wrath of God was not slow in overtaking the evil-doers, however. After they put the saint to death they got into a boat to cross the Danube River, and the boat capsized in a storm, drowning them.
Saint Romilus the Hesychast was the disciple of Saint Gregory of Sinai (August 8). He was born in Vidin, Bulgaria of a Greek father and a Bulgarian mother. As a child, he possessed a maturity beyond his years, and disdained childish games and pursuits. His friends, and even his teacher, admired him for his learning and piety.
His parents wanted to marry him to a woman, but he longed for the monastic life. When he learned that they planned to force him into marriage, he fled to the Hodēgḗtria Monastery at Trnovo. The abbot accepted him and tonsured him with the name Romanus. From the beginning of his life as a monk, Romanus was known for his virtue and for his humility.
The monk Romanus, hearing of the monastery established by Saint Gregory of Sinai in the wilderness of Paroria, longed to dwell there. Although the abbot realized that the young man wished to live in a more remote area far from worldly distractions, he was reluctant to let him go. The desire of Romanus to go to Paroria grew stronger day by day. He spoke to the abbot again, and the Elder was grieved at the thought of losing the exemplary and well-loved Romanus. He realized, however, that keeping Romanus there might not be according to the will of God. Therefore, he blessed Romanus to depart, and gave him provisions for his journey.
Romanus traveled to Paroria with another monk named Hilarion and explained to Saint Gregory who they were and that they had come to be his disciples. Saint Gregory received them and assigned them to their obediences in the monastery. Since Hilarion was weaker, he was given lighter duties. Romanus, who was strong, received heavier labors. He would carry wood from the mountain, or sometimes stones. He also carried water from the river, and helped in the kitchen and in the bakery. He even tended the sick, who seemed to improve under his care. Seeing his humility, his cheerful obedience, and his piety, the other monks called him “Romanus the Good.”
Romanus received instruction in the spiritual life from Saint Gregory, who trained him to be a great ascetic. When Saint Gregory fell asleep in the Lord, Romanus grieved for him day and night. He did not wish to remain in that place without being subject to an Elder. He found another instructor who had already accepted Romanus’s fellow-traveler Hilarion as a disciple. Romanus subjected himself to this Elder, obeying him as he had obeyed Saint Gregory.
Because the three monks were assailed by robbers who deprived them of the necessities of life, they left Paroria and went back to Zagora. They settled at a place called Mogrin, about one day’s journey from Trnovo. For some reason, Romanus left the Elder to dwell in a remote place by himself. Hearing of the Elder’s death, he returned and fell upon his grave with tears, filled with regret that he had deserted his instructor. Then he fell at Hilarion’s feet and said, “Since I disobeyed the Elder’s order and left this place, I place myself under you from this day forward.” Hilarion, knowing that Romanus surpassed him in virtue, would not agree to this. Romanus insisted saying, “Unless you accept me under your authority, I shall not get up from the ground.” Seeing his great humility, Hilarion finally agreed to accept Romanus.
Hearing that the robbers had been subdued by Tsar Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria, Romanus and Hilarion decided to go back to Paroria, where they could live in solitude and contemplation. Later, Romanus was tonsured into the Great Schema with the name Romilus.
The incursions of the Moslems forced Romilus to return yet again to Zagora, where he built a hut in a remote place. Other monks in the area, through envy or jealousy, resented Romilus, so he traveled to Mt. Athos. There many monks came to him for spiritual counsel, and they disturbed his quietude. Fleeing human glory, he went from place to place until he came to Mt. Melana near Karyes. Even there, monks gathered around him, and he was able to console and instruct them for their profit. He taught them to wage war against the passions, and against the demons who seek the destruction of the soul. He also taught them to love God and their neighbor, seeking the good things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard (I Cor. 2:9).
Not only did he correct his own disciples, but sometimes an Elder would send his disciples to Saint Romilus for correction. He urged them not to question or contradict their Elder’s orders, but to obey him just as Christ obeyed the will of the Father (John 6:38). He warned them that those who refuse to submit to authority are easily led astray by the Enemy. He also urged the Elders to be gentle with their disciples, and to avoid harsh treatment.
Once again, the number of monks who sought spiritual conversation with him hindered his own spiritual struggles and prayer. Therefore, he moved to the northern part of Mt. Athos and built a cell where he could live in solitude. The more he fled worldly glory, however, the more this glory found him. When the location of his cell became known, they flocked to him just as before.
The Serbian despot John Ugljela was killed by the Turks at the Battle of Marica on September 26, 1371. This allowed the Moslems to attack Mt. Athos, so many of the monks (including Saint Romilus) fled to other places. Saint Romilus went to Valona in Albania. He thought that in this obscure place he would find solitude, but he was mistaken. Many monks and laymen came to him, afflicted with ignorance, enslaved to base passions, with no shepherd to guide them. Through his words and his example, he led many from darkness into the light of Christ.
Saint Romilus left Valona with his disciples and moved to Ravenica in Serbia, where there was a monastery dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos. He settled near this place with his disciples. In 1375, he surrendered his soul to God and went to the heavenly Kingdom. It is said that his grave emitted an ineffable fragrance.
Even after his death, Saint Romilus performed great miracles, casting out demons, and healing all sorts of diseases and suffering. Through his holy prayers, may we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and great mercy from Christ our God, to Whom is due all glory, honor and worship, together with His unoriginate Father, and the Most Holy, good, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.