SYNAXIS OF THE THREE HIERARCHS: BASIL THE GREAT, GREGORY THE THEOLOGIAN, & JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, & John Chrysostom, Hippolytos, Pope of Rome, Athanasia the Martyr & her 3 daughters
ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 13:7-16
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.
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.”
Synaxis of the Ecumenical Teachers and Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, and John Chrysostom
Synaxis of the Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom: During the eleventh century, disputes raged in Constantinople about which of the three hierarchs was the greatest. Some preferred Saint Basil (January 1), others honored Saint Gregory the Theologian (January 25), while a third group exalted Saint John Chrysostom (November 13).
Dissension among Christians increased. Some called themselves Basilians, others referred to themselves as Gregorians, and others as Johnites.
By the will of God, the three hierarchs appeared to Saint John the Bishop of Euchaita (June 14) in the year 1084, and said that they were equal before God. “There are no divisions among us, and no opposition to one another.”
They ordered that the disputes should stop, and that their common commemoration should be celebrated on a single day. Bishop John chose January 30 for their joint Feast, thus ending the controversy and restoring peace.
Hieromartyr Hippolytus, and those with him
The Hieromartyr Hippolytus, and the Martyrs Censorinus, Sabinus, Chryse the Virgin and 20 others suffered during the third century.
When Saint Hippolytus, Bishop of Rome, learned of the suffering of the martyrs, he appeared before the governor despite his advanced years and rebuked the torturers for their inhumanity. The enraged governor sentenced the holy bishop to be tortured. After long torments, they tied him hand and foot and threw him into the sea.
Saint Censorinus was a high-ranking magistrate during the reign of the Roman emperor Claudius II (268-270). He was arrested and thrown into prison for his faith in Christ. By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ he raised up a dead man. As a result, twenty soldiers and prison guards were converted to Christ. They were beheaded with Saint Censorinus. Then the virgin Chryse was brought for interrogation. She bravely confessed herself a Christian and was subjected to torture. They lashed her sides and burned the wounds with candles. Then she was stretched out on the ground and beaten with heavy clubs. Not content with this, they broke her jaw with a rock and her back with leaden balls. Although she was covered with wounds, she confessed her faith as she was dying. So cruel was the brutality of her murderers that they tied a large stone around her neck and threw her into the sea.
Saint Chryse was thrown into the deep, but the newly-slain bride emerged from the ocean and entered the heavenly Bridal Chamber. Although her body disappeared into the water, her memory remains eternal and immortal, even more golden than her illustrious name. [FootNote: Chryse means “golden.”]
Saint Sabinus was the servant of Saint Chryse. The depraved idolaters beat him mercilessly with heavy leaden balls on his neck, then they hung him up on a tree and burned his entrails. After giving thanks to God, he surrendered his soul to Christ.
With Saint Chryse suffered the martyrs Ares, Felix, Maximus, Herculianus, Venerius, Stiracius, Mennas, Commodus, Hermes, Maurus, Eusebius, Rusticus, Monagrius, Amandinus, Olympius, Cyprus, Theodore the Tribune, Maximus the Presbyter, Archelaus the Deacon, and Cyriacus the Bishop.
All these Roman martyrs suffered in the year 269. The relics of the Hieromartyr Hippolytus were put in the church of the holy Martyrs Laurence and Pope Damasus at Rome. Saint Hippolytus was a disciple of Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lugdunum (Lyons in France), and he is also renowned as a Christian theologian who wrote many treatises against the heretics.
Saint Hyppolitus compiled a Paschal Canon, the famous Apostolic Tradition, “On Christ”, and a “Treatise on the Antichrist.” Saint Hippolytus also wrote many commentaries on Holy Scripture, on the Biblical Books: Genesis, Exodus, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and on the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, and on the Prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, on the Psalms of David and on the Apocalyse. Part of his works are preserved only in fragments. His discourses, devoted to the Theophany and the Prophet Daniel, are preserved in full. His discourses demonstrate his masterful style of preaching. He was one of the last Western Fathers to write in Greek.
Venerable Zeno the Faster, of the Kiev Caves
Saint Zeno the Faster and Lover of Labor of the Far Caves of Kiev lived in the fourteenth century. In the Third Ode of the Canon to the Monks of the Far Caves, he is described as “resplendent in fasting.” His memory is also celebrated on August 28 and the second Sunday of Great Lent.
Venerable Zeno the Hermit of Antioch, disciple of Saint Basil the Great
Saint Zeno, the disciple of Saint Basil the Great, was born in the city of Pontus into a rich family. He served at the court of the emperor Valens (364-378), among the soldiers who were sent out to deliver the imperial edicts.
After the death of Valens, Saint Zeno left the world and settled in a cave near the city of Antioch. For forty years he lived in this cave, and he lived an austere life in complete solitude, cleansing his soul, and meditating on God.
Saint Zeno went to church each Sunday and received the Holy Mysteries of Christ. In his cell he had neither bed, nor fireplace, nor lamp. The ascetic wore old rags, and ate only bread and water, for which he had to make a tedious journey into the city to the well.
Saint Zeno was particularly fond of holy books, which he borrowed from those who came to him for spiritual counsel. Through his deep humility the blessed ascetic, filled with the gifts of grace, considered himself poor in spirit. Saint Zeno died at the beginning of the fifth century.
Martyr Theophilus the New in Cyprus
The Holy Martyr Theophilus the New was born and raised in Constantinople. He was a commander of the Greek armies and a senator. During a time of war with enemies of the Byzantine Empire, Saint Theophilus was taken captive. The Arabs demanded he renounce Christ, but he remained faithful to Orthodoxy. Saint Theophilus was imprisoned on Cyprus, where he spent four years, after which he was beheaded in the year 784.
Blessed Peter, King of Bulgaria
Saint Peter, King of Bulgaria, was the son of the militant Bulgarian prince Simeon. Saint Peter was distinguished for his Christian piety, and he often turned to Saint John of Rila (August 18, October 19), asking his prayers, spiritual guidance and advice.
King Peter concluded peace with Byzantium on terms advantageous for Bulgaria. He also gained recognition from the Patriarch of Constantinople for the autonomy of the Bulgarian Church, and the affirmation of a Patriarchal throne in Bulgaria, benefiting all the Bulgarian Church.
Saint Peter aided in the successful extirpation of the Bogomil heresy in his lands. He died in the year 967, at fifty-six years of age.
Icon of the Mother of God “Tinos”
This highly-venerated icon of the Annunciation was discovered in the ruins of the ancient church of Saint John the Baptist on January 30, 1823.
An elderly man, Michael Polyzoes, had a dream shortly before the Feast of the Annunciation in 1821, in which the Mother of God appeared to him in shining white garments. She instructed him to dig in the field of Anthony Doxaras outside the city, where he would find her icon. She also told him to build a church on the site, since there had once been one there. The Queen of Heaven also promised to help him accomplish these tasks.
Upon awakening, he crossed himself and tried to go back to sleep, believing that his dream had been a temptation from the devil. Before falling asleep, Michael saw the Theotokos once again, and noticed that the room was flooded by a gentle white light. Her head was surrounded by divine light, and her face displayed ineffable grace and sweetness. Speaking to the old man she said, “Why are you afraid? Your fear comes from unbelief. Listen! I am Panagia (the all-holy one). I want you to dig in the field of Anthony Doxaras where my icon is buried. I ask you to do this as a favor, old man. You will build a church there and I will help you.” Then she disappeared.
The next morning, Michael went into the village and told the priest what had happened to him during the night. The priest also thought the dream was a temptation, so he urged Michael to come for Confession and Communion. The old man, however, was not convinced that his visions were mere dreams or demonic temptations. He told the inhabitants of the village of his experience. Some laughed at him, but only two believed his words.
The two men went with him to the field one night and dug in many places, but they found nothing. Then they dug in another place and found the remains of an old wall. Finding nothing but bricks, they had to give up their search in the morning so the Turks would not find out what they were doing.
Anthony Doxaras, the owner of the field, found the bricks and tried to use them to build an oven. The mortar would not adhere to the bricks, so whenever they tried to build one section of the oven, it collapsed. The workers were convinced that God was showing them that the bricks from the ancient church were not to be used for an oven.
Saint Pelagia (July 23), an eighty-year-old nun, had several dreams in June of 1822 in which the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to her. Saint Pelagia was living in the women’s monastery of the Dormition on Mt. Kechrovounios, about an hour’s journey from the village. She had lived in the monastery from a young age, and was known for her great virtue and piety.
The Theotokos appeared to her in a dream and ordered her to go to Stamatelos Kangades (a prominent man of the village), and tell him to uncover the church of Saint John the Baptist in the field of Anthony Doxaras.
Terrified by the vision, Pelagia attributed the dream to her imagination, and she began to pray. She was afraid to tell anyone about her dream, but the following week, the Theotokos appeared to her again, reminding her of her instructions. Still, the nun remained silent and told no one of her vision. The Theotokos appeared a third time, this time with a severe manner. She chastised the nun for her unbelief, saying, “Go and do as I told you. Be obedient.”
Saint Pelagia woke up in fear and trembling. As she opened her eyes, she saw the same mysterious Woman she had seen while asleep. With a great effort she asked, “Who are you, Lady? Why are you angry with me, and why do you order me to do these things?”
The Woman raised her hand and said, “Proclaim, O earth, glad tidings of great joy” (Megalynarion of the Ninth Ode of the Canon for Matins of the Annunciation).
Understanding at last, the aged nun joyfully exclaimed, “Praise, O heavens, the glory of God” (The next line of the Megalynarion).
At once, she informed the Abbess of her visions, and she also told Stamatelos Kangades. Mr. Kangades, who had been designated by the Theotokos to carry out the excavation of the church, informed Bishop Gabriel of these events. The bishop had already heard of the dream of Michael Polyzoes, and realized that the account of the nun Pelagia agreed with his vision. Bishop Gabriel wrote to all the churches on the island of Tinos, urging them to cooperate in finding the church and the icon.
Excavations began in September of 1822 under the supervision of Mr. Kangades. The foundations of the church of Saint John, destroyed by Arabs in 1200, were uncovered. An old well was found near the church, but not the holy icon. The money ran out, and so the effort was abandoned.
Once again the Mother of God appeared to Saint Pelagia, urging that the excavations continue. Bishop Gabriel sent out an appeal for donations to build a new church on the foundations of the old church of Saint John the Baptist. The new church was built, and was dedicated to Saint John and to the Life-Giving Fountain.
On January 30, 1823 workers were leveling the ground inside the church in preparation for laying a new stone floor. About noon one of the workers, Emmanuel Matsos, struck a piece of wood with his pickaxe, splitting it down the middle. He looked at one piece of the board and saw that it was burned on one side, while the other side showed traces of paint. As he brushed off the dirt with his hand, he saw that it was an icon. Joining the two pieces of wood together, he crossed himself and venerated the icon.
He called the other workers, who also came and venerated the icon. When the icon was cleaned, it was shown to be an icon of the Annunciation. The split was in the middle of the icon, between the Theotokos and the Archangel Gabriel. Neither figure was damaged, and this was regarded as a miracle.
That same day, the icon was given to Bishop Gabriel, who kissed it and cried out, “Great art Thou, O Lord, and wondrous are Thy works.”
After the finding of the icon, the inabitants of Tinos were filled with zeal to build a magnificent church in honor of the Theotokos. People offered their money and their own labor to help build the church of the Evangelistria (She who received the Good News).
The new church was completed in 1823, and was consecrated by Bishop Gabriel. Saint Pelagia of Tinos fell asleep in the Lord on April 28, 1834. Her Feast Day, however, is on July 23.
The Tinos Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos continues to be venerated as one of Greece’s holiest treasures. Innumerable miracles of healing and deliverance from danger have not ceased since the time the icon was found.
Saint Demetrius, New Martyr of Sliven
The Holy New Martyr Demetrius was born on October 9, 1818 in Sliven, Bulgaria. His parents had no children for the first eight years of their marriage. Their prayers to God were answered, and their sons Stephen and Demetrius were born.
Demetrius was the younger son, and was brought up in a pious manner. He did not go to school, but he attended church frequently and memorized many prayers and services.
After their parents died, Stephen left home and went to Wallachia. Demetrius remained in the family home, which soon collapsed because of its age. The Moslems used this excuse to seize the surrounding property, and Demetrius became a servant to one of them. The family tried to convert him to their religion, but Demetrius resisted such attempts. “Our Orthodox Christian religion was given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said, “while yours was given to you by Mohammed, a mere man.”
They threw Demetrius out of the house when they heard this, and he later became a baker. Even while selling his bread in the marketplace, Demetrius proclaimed the Orthodox Faith and pointed out the deficiencies of Islam. Naturally, this outraged the Moslems, and they began to plan their revenge.
A new kadi came to Sliven, and Demetrius was chosen to prepare the food. The local beys chose him because they knew he had insulted Islam. The kadi offered him tobacco and liquor, but Demetrius said that he did not smoke or drink. When he tried to leave, the kadi said, “Let me make you a Moslem. You see what a good life we have. If you convert, I will tell your master to give you his daughter in marriage, and half of his riches.”
Demetrius answered sarcastically, “Oh, sure.”
Mistaking this for a serious reply, one of the Moslems began wrapping cloth around the young man’s head in the form of a turban. Demetrius threw the turban to the ground and ran from the house. Some of the Hagarenes chased him, but were unable to catch him. For three days he hid in the village of Ichera without food or water.
Demetrius went to a bishop and told him his story. The bishop encouraged him to remain Orthodox, then sent him away with a gold coin and a wooden cross.
Exchanging the coin for change, Demetrius gave half the money to the poor. Then he went up to a Moslem guard and said that he was the one they were seeking. He was escorted back to Sliven with his hands tied behind him. When he met an Orthodox Christian Demetrius said, “Forgive me, brethren. I gave myself up to these ungodly people for the glory of our Faith.”
When Saint Demetrius was thrown into prison, he asked for his brother the priest Stephen to visit him. His request was refused, but Father Stephen learned that Demetrius was incarcerated and tried to have him freed. The kadi ordered Demetrius to be brought to him while he was dining with other officials.
The kadi asked Demetrius if he was willing to accept Islam. Christ’s holy martyr informed him that he had never promised to become a Moslem, and he had no intention of doing so. “If you took my irony for truth, I am sorry for you.” He went on to call Mohammed a false prophet, and his followers sons of Satan.
The kadi told Demetrius that if he did not become a Moslem, he would be put to death. Then he sent him back to prison for three days to consider this. When he was brought before the kadi again, Demetrius refused to convert. Then he was ordered to be executed.
When the other Christians heard of Demetrius’s fearless confession of faith and his impending death, they brought Father Stephen to him. Demetrius told the priest he was afraid that he would not be able to endure the tortures. Father Stephen urged him to remain strong and bear witness to Christ.
Saint Demetrius remained in prison for a whole year. His tortures continued, and no one was able to help him. At the beginning of the year, many Moslems gathered and shouted for the kadi to execute Demetrius. Therefore, he summoned Demetrius before him. The fearless martyr remained unshaken in his resolve, and mocked their faith.
For the last time Demetrius was offered the choice of converting to Islam or being put to death. He said he would remain a Christian whatever they did to him. Father Stephen came to the prison to hear the saint’s confession and give him Communion.
On the morning of January 30, 1841 Demetrius was brought to the place of execution. He asked forgiveness of the Christians he met, entreating them to pray for him. Then they ordered him to kneel on the ground for beheading. The first stroke did not sever his head, and he remained motionless. With the second stroke, the martyr’s head fell to the ground. The Christians soaked cloths in his blood, and Father Stephen collected some of the blood-soaked earth in a box.
The holy relics remained unburied all night. The kadi ordered the body to be thrown into the river the next day, because Moslems believe that the bodies of those who insult Mohammed should not be received by the earth. After a sufficient bribe had been paid, the kadi released the body for burial in the garden of the monastery. Saint Demetrius now lives in the heavenly Kingdom, glorifying most holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit throughout all ages.
New Martyr Theodore
The Holy New Martyr Theodore was born in the city of Mytilene, where he married and raised children in Orthodox piety. He renounced Christ and accepted the Moslem religion, but soon repented of his sin, left his family and went to Mt. Athos. But even in the monastery Saint Theodore was deeply anguished by his denial of Christ.
The Lord blessed the saint to confess the Orthodox Faith before a Moslem judge in the year 1784. The enraged judge gave orders to fiercely torture the holy martyr, and then they strangled him with a rope and cast him into the sea. Christians buried the body of the holy Martyr Theodore in the church of Saint John the Forerunner.