Daily Readings for Wednesday, January 18, 2023



Athanasios and Cyril, Patriarchs of Alexandria, Zenia the Martyr


Brethren, remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their lives, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings; for it is well that the heart be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited their adherents. We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

MATTHEW 5:14-19

The Lord said to his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Saint Athanasius the Great, Archbishop of Alexandria

Saints Athanasius and Cyril were Archbishops of Alexandria. These wise teachers of truth and defenders of Christ’s Church share a joint Feast in recognition of their dogmatic writings which affirm the truth of the Orthodox Faith, correctly interpret the Holy Scripture, and censure the delusions of the heretics.

Saint Athanasius took part in the First Ecumenical Council when he was still a deacon. He surpassed everyone there in his zeal to uphold the teaching that Christ is consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, and not merely a creature, as the Arians proclaimed.

This radiant beacon of Orthodoxy spent most of his life in exile from his See, because of the plotting of his enemies. He returned to his flock as he was approaching the end of his life. Like an evening star, he illumined the Orthodox faithful with his words for a little while, then reposed in 373. He is also commemorated on May 2 (the transfer of his holy relics).

Saint Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria

Saints Athanasius and Cyril were Archbishops of Alexandria. These wise teachers of truth and defenders of Christ’s Church share a joint Feast in recognition of their dogmatic writings which affirm the truth of the Orthodox Faith, correctly interpret the Holy Scripture, and censure the delusions of the heretics.

St Cyril was the nephew of Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria, who educated him from his youth. He succeeded to his uncle’s position in 412, but was deposed through the intrigues of the Nestorian heretics. He later resumed his See, however.

St Cyril presided at the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, which censured the Nestorian blasphemy against the Most Holy Theotokos. His wise words demonstrated the error of their false doctrine.

St Cyril departed to the Lord in the year 444, and is also commemorated on June 9 (the day of his repose).

Venerable Athanasius, Abbot of Syandemsk, Vologda

Saint Athanasius of Synadem and Vologda was a disciple of Saint Alexander of Svir (August 30). After the death of his mentor, he established the Dormition hermitage in the forests of Karelia, not far from the city of Olonets, on an island of Lake Synadem.

The slander and pettiness of the local inhabitants compelled Saint Athanasius to move back to the Svir monastery, where they chose him as igumen. Later returning to the Dormition hermitage, Saint Athanasius died in about the year 1550 in great old age, and was buried on one of the promontories of Roschinsk island. Afterwards, a church was built over his grave, named for Saints Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria. The incorrupt relics of Saint Athanasius were placed in this church in 1720.

Righteous Athanasius of Novolotsk

Righteous Athanasius of Navolotsk went at the end of the sixteenth century from the Kargopol region to the Olonets land, where he founded a monastery 78 versts from what later became the city of Petrozavodsk. The saint died at a Verkholedsk suburb not far from Shenkursk.

Venerable Marcian of Cyrrhus in Syria

Saint Marcian of Cyrrhus lived in the desert near the city of Cyrrhus. He built a small hut and settled in it, passing his time in prayer, singing Psalms and reading spiritual books. He ate very little food, just enough to keep him alive. Reports of his holy life attracted to him many zealous ascetics, and Saint Marcian established a monastery for them.

God’s blessing rested upon the saint, and he possessed the gift of wonderworking. Once, a serpent crawled into his cell. The saint made the Sign of the Cross and the serpent perished, burned up by flames. At night, when the ascetic read, a heavenly light shone for him. The monk also worked many other miracles on behalf of the brethren. He died in peace about the year 388.

Venerable Schemamonk Cyril and Schemanun Maria, the parents of Saint Sergius of Radonezh

Saint Cyril and his wife Maria were the parents of Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25). They belonged to the nobility, but more importantly, they were devout and faithful Christians who were adorned with every virtue.

When the child in Maria’s womb cried out three times in church during Liturgy, people were astonished. Although frightened at first, Maria came to see this event as a sign from God that her child would become a chosen vessel of divine grace. She and her husband agreed that if the child was a boy, they would bring him to church and dedicate him to God. This child, the second of their three sons, was born around 1314. He was named Bartholomew at his baptism.

Because of civil strife, Saint Cyril moved his family from Rostov to Radonezh when Bartholomew was still a boy.

Later, when their son expressed a desire to enter the monastic life, Saints Cyril and Maria asked him to wait and take care of them until they passed away, because his brothers Stephen and Peter were both married and had their own family responsibilities. The young Bartholomew obeyed his parents, and did everything he could to please them. They later decided to retire to separate monasteries, and departed to the Lord after a few years. It is believed that Saints Cyril and Maria both reposed in 1337.

Forty days after burying his parents, Bartholomew settled their estate, giving his share to his brother Peter. He then went to the monastery when he was twenty-three years old, and was tonsured on October 7 with the name Sergius (in honor of the martyr Saint Sergius who is commemorated on that day). As everyone knows, Saint Sergius of Radonezh became one of Russia’s greatest and most revered saints.

Saints Cyril and Maria were glorified by the Orthodox Church of Russia in 1992. They are also commemorated on September 28, and July 6 (Synaxis of the Saints of Radonezh).

Saint Joachim I, Patriarch of Trnovo and Bulgaria

No information available at this time.

Saint Maximus, Archbishop of Serbia

No information available at this time.

Saint Maximus the New

Saint Maximus the New was the son of King Stephen of Serbia (December 10). He became a monk at Manasija, but had to flee into a mountainous region of Romania because of the Moslems. He was consecrated as Metropolitan of Wallachia. After a life of great spiritual endeavors, he fell asleep in the Lord on January 18, 1516 in a monastery he had founded.

Saint Ephraim the Lesser

Today little is known about the life of venerable Ephraim the Lesser, the great 11th-century writer, translator, philosopher, and defender of the Georgian Church. His work Reminiscences and other sources, however, provide us with the means to speculate about the major periods of his life and labors.

In 1027, when King Bagrat IV (1027-1072) ascended the Georgian throne, many noblemen of the Tao region in southern Georgia relocated to Greece. Among them was the honorable Vache, son of Karichi, whom scholars believe was Ephraim’s father.

After receiving a Greek education in Constantinople, Ephraim settled in the Black Mountains near Antioch and began his labors there. His achievements in Georgian theological and philosophical writing are immeasurable. The number of his works is almost one hundred, and the subjects cover nearly every branch of theological inquiry. Ephraim even developed his own theory of translation, which later formed the foundation for written composition in the Georgian language. His theory consists of three essential points:

1. A composition must be translated from the original, that is, from the language in which it was first written.

2. The translation must carry the same literal meaning as the original, but accuracy in this regard must not violate the nature of the language into which the text is being translated.

3. A section of commentary that examines all relevant historical, grammatical, and literary issues should be included with the translated text.

Ephraim translated five of the works of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite, The Ascetic Rules of Saint Basil the Great, the writings of Saint Ephraim the Syrian, commentaries on the Epistles and Psalms, and many other important patristic writings.

Among Ephraim the Lesser’s original works, his most significant is An Explanation of the Reasons for the Conversion of Georgia, a compilation of existing essays and his own commentaries on the nation’s conversion.

In the second half of the 11th century, the monks of Antioch and the Black Mountains began to deny the independence of the Georgian Church. Among other claims, they argued that none of the Apostles had preached the Christian Faith in Georgia. It became necessary to prove that the Georgian Church was indeed autocephalous, and members of the nation’s elite accordingly called upon Ephraim to settle this issue. Ephraim studied many patristic writings in the original Greek, gathered the ancient sources, and succeeded in fully securing the independent existence of the Georgian Church.

Saint Ephraim wrote the following about the Apostles’ preaching: “Know that from the time the Apostles were preaching, according to the Prophet David: Their voice was heard through all the earth, and their words resounded in every village (c.f. Ps. 18:4). In Georgia, Andrew the First-called preached the Gospel in Avazgia (now Abkhazeti), and from there he journeyed to Ossetia (now Shida Kartli). Bartholomew also preached in Georgia, in the Kartli region.”

Saint Ephraim never left the Black Mountains. In 1091 he was enthroned as the abbot of Kastana Monastery [The precise location of Kastana is unknown, but according to modern archaeologists, it was probably in the Black Mountains. For a full discussion of the subject see: Wachtang Z. Djobadze, Materials for the study of Georgian monasteries in the Western environs of Antioch on the Orontes (Louvain: Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 1976), pp. 101-3]

Our holy father Ephraim reposed in the Lord around the year 1101. He is included in a list of the departed compiled by the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi in 1103, and the year of his death has been approximated from the information given in this source.

Ephraim was canonized by the Orthodox Church of Georgia because of his God-pleasing life and the many commendable works he performed on behalf of the Church and his nation.

Venerable Hieromonk Alexei of Teklati

Saint Alexi (Shushania) was born September 23, 1852, in the village of Noqalaqevi, in the Senaki district of Samegrelo, to a pious Christian couple. His father died in 1868, after giving the sixteen-year-old future hieromonk his blessing to care for the family.

In the same year that his father died, Alexi journeyed to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage, and from there to Constantinople to visit his uncle, Islam Shushania, a successful merchant and a clever and pious man. During this visit, Alexi became fascinated with the trade industry and resolved to become a merchant as well. But he would soon discover that God’s will was different from his own.

One day Alexi borrowed a small icon of Saint John the Baptist from his uncle, confined himself to his room, and there began to experience great inner warfare. He was moved by a profound love for his mother, sisters, brothers, and friends, but at the same time he sensed an invisible force calling him to the spiritual life.

After several agonizing hours, Alexi finally asked himself, “How can I fulfill my father’s will? He entrusted me with the responsibility to look after the family—how can I reconcile this with God’s calling?”

To his great wonder, an invisible instructor answered him, saying, “If you die now, who will take over your responsibilities?” The answer was clear. “God will!” Alexi proclaimed. And he heard the voice again.

“So die to the world, entrust everything to God, and He will minister to your family.”

The encounter transformed Alexi’s life. Afterwards he confined himself to his room for months, reading the Holy Scriptures, and keeping a strict fast. Witnessing the radical change in Alexi’s way of life, his uncle thought it would be best for them to leave Constantinople and return to Georgia.

It was not long before Alexi’s loved ones realized he had made a covenant with God, and that he would enter the monastic life. His brothers and sisters were distressed upon hearing the news, but his mother gave thanks to God and blessed her son.

At the age of twenty Alexi moved to Teklati Women’s Monastery. He began to lead a strict ascetic life and went from village to village, caring for those ill with tuberculosis, cholera, and other serious illnesses, and burying the corpses of the homeless.

Several years passed, and many became convinced that Alexi was a fool-for-Christ. He preached the Word of God with intensity, and his life was an example for many. His preaching inspired his mother, Elene, his younger sister Salome, and his brother Besarion to join him in the monastic life. After he was tonsured a monk, Besarion made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and remained there for several years.

Because of his exemplary service to the Lord, he was ordained a priest at Martvili Monastery. Later he was tonsured into the great schema. Alexi also spent time on Mt. Athos. After returning from the Holy Mountain, he made a pilgrimage to the Kiev Caves Monastery, then returned to Georgia to continue his labors.

Around the year 1885 Saint Alexi moved to Gelati Monastery, where he continued to study and produced several original works. In 1886 he was reassigned to Khobi Monastery and ordained a deacon by Bishop Grigol, and in 1888 he was ordained a hieromonk. Two years later, in 1890, he became ill and returned to be with his mother and sisters at Teklati Monastery.

According to God’s will his health was restored, and in 1891 Alexi fashioned a cell for himself in the mountainous village of Menji (also called “Archangels’ Hill”), near the place where he was born. He gathered his disciples and undertook a stricter ascetic life. Fr. Alexi’s health was so improved that he was able to celebrate the divine services again.

The holy father would receive alms, but he distributed most of what was given to him. He divided the alms in three parts: the first he put aside for his personal needs, the second, for the church and its guests, and the third, for the poor and infirm.

Saint Alexi kept a life-size cross in his cell, and when he prayed he supported the cross on his back, since it reminded him of the position in which Saint Simon of Cyrene carried the Holy Cross to Christ’s Crucifixion on Golgotha.

In spite of his strict ascetic life, Hieromonk Alexi was remarkably close to the people in his community and was loved by many for the spiritual warmth that he radiated.

After many years the strict ascetic life finally took its toll on Fr. Alexi’s health. He dismissed his pupils and spent the last years of his earthly life (from around the year 1915) with his cousins, the schemanuns Akepsima and Pasto. Saint Alexi reposed January 18, 1923, frail from a long and labor-filled life in the service of the Lord.

For forty days after his death, the schemanuns Akepsima and Pasto remained in his cell for fear that the Communist government’s henchmen would destroy his humble dwelling. Later they buried Fr. Alexi’s body at Teklati, and themselves began to labor at the Archangels’ Monastery. With the blessing of Metropolitan Eprem of Batumi-hemokmedi and Chqondidi, Schemanun Akepsima and Abbess Pasto translated Fr. Alexi’s incorrupt relics from Teklati to the Archangels’ Monastery and buried them near the east wall of the temple on January 8, 1960.

Saint Alexi was canonized on September 18, 1995.