ABSTAIN FROM MEAT
Cheesefare Monday, Leo, Bishop of Catania, Agathus, Pope of Rome, Bessarion the Great, Sadok the Bishop and the 128 other Martyrs of Persia, Plotinus
ST. JOHN’S THIRD UNIVERSAL LETTER 1:1-15
The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in health; I know that it is well with your soul. For I greatly rejoiced when some of the brethren arrived and testified to the truth of your life, as indeed you do follow the truth. No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.
Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God's service. For they have set out for his sake and have accepted nothing from the heathen. So we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers in the truth.
I have written something to the church; but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority. So if I come I will bring up what he is doing, prating against me with evil words. And not content with that, he refuses himself to welcome the brethren, and also stops those who want to welcome them and puts them out of the church.
Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. He who does good is of God; he who does evil has not seen God. Demetrios has testimony from every one, and from the truth itself; I testify to him too, and you know my testimony is true.
I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink; I hope to see you soon, and we will talk together face to face.
Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.
LUKE 19:29-40; 22:7-39
At that time, when Jesus drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village opposite, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat; untie it and bring it here. If any one asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say this, 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" And they said, "The Lord has need of it." And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their garments on the colt they set Jesus upon it. And as he rode along, they spread their garments on the road. As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So he sent Peter and John, saying; "Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat it." They said to him, "Where will you have us prepare it?" He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters, and tell the householder, 'The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?' And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready." And they went, and found it as he had told them; and they prepared the passover.
And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall never eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!" And they began to question one another, which of them it was that would do this.
A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves.
You are those who have continued with me in my trials; and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren." And he said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." He said, "I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.
And he said to them, "When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" They said, "Nothing." He said to them, "But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, 'And he was reckoned with transgressors'; for what is written about me has its fulfillment." And they said, "Look, Lord, here are two swords." And he said to them, "It is enough.
And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.
Saint Leo, Bishop of Catania in Sicily
Saint Leo was born in Ravenna, Italy, of pious and noble parents. He was famed for his benevolence and charity, as well as his Christian love for the poor and wanderers. After completing his studies, he was ordained as a priest at Ravenna, and later, because of his purity and his most spiritual life, he was consecrated as Bishop of Catania in Sicily. He became the protector of orphans and widows, teaching and shepherding his flock.
The Saint was also distinguished for his struggles against heretics, whom he defeated and shamed, not only by his words, but also through his writings. The Lord honored him with the charisms of healing people from various diseases, and of working miracles.
During Saint Leo's episcopate, there was a sorcerer named Heliódoros who lived in Catania and deceived people with his fraudulent miracles. He was once a Christian, but then he denied the Savior and became a servant of the devil. Saint Leo urged Heliódoros to refrain from his evil deeds and return to God, but all in vain. One day Heliódoros audaciously entered the church where the bishop was performing the Divine Services, and tried to create a disturbance, sowing confusion and temptation with his sorcery.
Seeing the people beset by demons under the sorcerer's spell, Saint Leo knew that the time for meek exhortation had passed. He came out of the altar and tied his omophorion around the sorcerer's neck, leading him out of the church and into the city square. There he forced Heliódoros to confess all his wicked deeds. Then he commanded that a fire be lit, and jumped into the flames with the sorcerer. There they stood until Heliódoros was consumed by the fire. Saint Leo, by God's grace, remained unharmed. This miracle brought the Hierarch great renown during his lifetime, therefore, the Saint was invited to visit Constantinople by Emperors Leo IV (775 – 780) and Constantine VI (780 – 798), where he received many honors. Saint Leo reposed peacefully in 785.
After his death, a woman with an issue of blood received healing at his grave. The Saint's body was placed in the church of the holy Martyr Lucy (December 13), which he himself had built. Later on, his relics were transferred to the church of Saint Martin, the Bishop of Tours (November 11) in Rome.
Venerable Agathon, Wonderworker of the Kiev Caves
Saint Agathon of the Kiev Caves was a great ascetic, and he healed the sick by a laying his hands upon them. He also possessed the gift of prophecy and foretold the time of his own death. His memory is celebrated also at the Synaxis of the Monks of the Far Caves on August 28.
Beheading of Venerable Cornelius, Abbot of the Pskov Caves
The Hieromartyr Cornelius of the Pskov Caves was born in the year 1501 at Pskov into the noble family of Stephen and Maria. In order to give their son an education, his parents sent him to the Pskov Mirozh monastery, where he worked under the guidance of an Elder. He made candles, chopped wood, studied his letters, transcribed and adorned books, and also painted icons. Having finished his studies, Cornelius returned to his parental home with the resolve to become a monk.
Once, the government clerk Misiur Munekhin took Cornelius with him to the Pskov Caves monastery in the woods. The solemnity of services in the cave church produced such a strong impression on Cornelius that he left his parental home forever and received monastic tonsure at the Pskov Caves monastery.
In 1529, at the age of twenty-eight, Saint Cornelius was made igumen and became head of the monastery. While he was igumen, the Pskov Caves monastery reached its prime. The number of brethren increased from 15 to 200 men. This number of monks was not surpassed under any subsequent head of the monastery.
The activity of Saint Cornelius extended far beyond the bounds of the monastery. He spread Orthodoxy among the Esti [Aesti] and Saeti people living around the monastery, he built churches, hospices, homes for orphans and those in need. During a terrible plague in the Pskov region Saint Cornelius walked through the plague-infested villages to give Communion to the living and to sing burial services for the dead.
During the Livonian war Saint Cornelius preached Christianity in the occupied cities, built churches, and distributed generous aid from the monastery storerooms to the Esti and Livonians suffering from the war. At the monastery he selflessly doctored and fed the injured and the maimed, preserved the dead in the caves, and inscribed their names in the monastery Synodikon for eternal remembrance.
In the year 1560, on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, Saint Cornelius sent a prosphora and holy water as blessing for the Russian armies besieging the city of Thellin. On that very day the Germans surrendered the city.
In 1570 when a See was established in Livonian Yuriev, a certain igumen Cornelius was appointed as Bishop of Yuriev and Velyansk (i.e., Thellin). Some have identified him with Saint Cornelius, but this does not correspond with actual events.
Saint Cornelius was a great lover of books, and at the monastery there was quite a collection of books. In 1531 his work entitled, “An Account of the Origin of the Pechersk Monastery” appeared. In the mid-sixteenth century the Pskov Caves monastery took over the tradition of writing chronicles from the Spaso-Eleaszar monastery.
At the start of the chronicles were accounts of the first two Pskov chronicles from 1547 to 1567. Besides this, Igumen Cornelius left behind a great monastery Synodikon for remembering the deceased brothers and benefactors of the monastery, and from the year 1588 he began to maintain the “Stern Book” [“Kormovaya kniga”: since the rear of a ship is called the stern, the sense of the title is “looking back in remembrance”]. He also compiled a “Description of the Monastery” and a “Description of the Miracles of the Pechersk Icon of the Mother of God.”
Saint Cornelius expanded and beautified the monastery, he further enlarged the monastery caves, he moved the wooden church of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste beyond the monastery enclosure to the monastery gate, and on its site he built a church in the name of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos in the year 1541. In 1559, he constructed a church dedicated to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos.
The Caves monastery, on the frontier of the Russian state, was not only a beacon of Orthodoxy, but also a bulwark against the external enemies of Russia.
In 1558-1565, Saint Cornelius built a massive stone wall around the monastery, and over the holy gates, he built a stone church dedicated to Saint Nicholas, entrusting the protection of the monastery to him. In the church was a sculpted wooden icon of “Nicholas the Warrior.”
In the chronicle compiled by the hierodeacon Pitirim, the martyric death of Saint Cornelius was recorded: “This blessed Igumen Cornelius … was igumen forty-one years and two months. Not only as a monk, but also by his fasting and holy life, he was an image of salvation … in these times there was much unrest in the Russian land. Finally, the earthly Tsar (Ivan the Terrible) sent him from this corruptible life to the Heavenly King in the eternal habitations, on February 20, 1570, in his 69th year.” (This information is on a ceramic plate, from the ceramics covering the mouth of the tomb of Saint Cornelius).
In the ancient manuscripts of the Trinity-Sergiev Lavra it was written that Igumen Cornelius came out from the monastery gates with a cross to meet the Tsar. Ivan the Terrible, angered by a false slander, beheaded him with his own hands, but then immediately repented of his deed, and carried the body to the monastery. The pathway made scarlet by the blood of Saint Cornelius, along which the Tsar carried his body to the Dormition church, became known as the “Bloody Path.” Evidence of the Tsar’s repentance was the generous recompense he made to the Pskov Caves monastery after the death of Saint Cornelius. The name of the igumen Cornelius was inscribed in the Tsar’s Synodikon.
The body of Saint Cornelius was set into the wall of “the cave formed by God,” where it remained for 120 years without corruption. In the year 1690, Metropolitan Marcellus of Pskov and Izborsk, had the relics transferred from the cave to the Dormition cathedral church and placed in a new crypt in the wall.
On December 17, 1872 the relics of Saint Cornelius were transferred from the former tomb into a copper-silver reliquary. They were placed into a new reliquary in 1892. It is presumed that the service to the martyr was composed for the Uncovering of the Relics in the year 1690.
Hieromartyr Sadoc (Sadoth), Bishop of Persia, and 128 Martyrs with him
The Hieromartyr Sadoc, Bishop of Persia, and 128 Martyrs with him suffered in Persia under Sapor II. Saint Sadoc was successor of the hieromartyr Simeon (April 17). He once had a dream, in which Saint Simeon told him of his own impending martyric death. Standing in great glory atop a ladder reaching up to Heaven, Saint Simeon said, “Ascend to me, Sadoc, and be not afraid. Yesterday I ascended, and today you will ascend.”
Soon the emperor Sapor, renewing the persecution against Christians, ordered that Saint Sadoc be arrested with his clergy and flock. In all, 128 people were arrested, including nine virgins. They were thrown into prison, where they were cruelly tortured for five months. They were told to renounce the Christian Faith and instead to worship the sun and fire. The holy martyrs bravely answered, “We are Christians and worship the One God.” They were sentenced to beheading by the sword.
Saint Agathon, Pope of Rome
Saint Agathon, Pope of Rome, was the son of pious Christian parents, who provided him an excellent education. After their death, Saint Agathon distributed his inheritance to the poor and became a monk. His virtuous life could not remain concealed from people. In 679, he was elected as the Bishop of Rome, and he remained in this position until his death in 682.