FIRST WEDNESDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
The Holy Righteous Martyr Eudocia the Samaritan, Andonina the New Martyr, David the Archbishop
Thus say the people: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
For thou hast rejected thy people, the house of Jacob, because they are full of diviners from the east and of soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with foreigners. Their land is filled with silver and gold, and there is no end to their treasures; their land is filled with horses, and there is no end to their chariots. Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. So man is humbled, and men are brought low — forgive them not! Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord, and from the glory of his majesty. The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall be humbled; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds." And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the cattle according to their kinds, and everything that creeps upon the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you; understanding will guard you; delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil; men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.
You will be saved from the loose woman, from the adventuress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the shades; none who go to her come back nor do they regain the paths of life.
So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and men of integrity will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.
Martyr Eudokia of Heliopolis
Holy Monastic Martyr Eudokia was a Samaritan, a native of the city of Heliopolis in Phoenicia (modern Baalbek), who lived during the reign of Trajan (98-117). Her pagan impiety took her off the good path, and for a long time she led a sinful life. Her soul was deadened and her heart hardened.
Eudokia awoke one night at midnight and heard singing from the house of a Christian woman next to hers. A monk was reading from a book which described the Last Judgment, the punishment of sinners, and the reward of the righteous. The grace of God touched Eudokia’s heart, and she grieved because of her great wealth and for her sinful life.
In the morning Eudokia hastened to call on the man whose rule of prayer she heard the previous night. This was a monk named Germanus, returning from pilgrimage to the holy places to his own monastery. Eudokia listened for a long time to the guidance of the Elder, and her soul was filled with joy and love for Christ. She asked Germanus to stay in her home for a week, during which she secluded herself in her room, and spent her time in fasting and prayer.
The Elder Germanus told her to give away her wealth and to forget her previous life. Eudokia received holy Baptism from Bishop Theodotus of Heliopolis. She entered a monastery and took upon herself very strict acts of penitence. The Lord granted forgiveness to the penitent sinner and endowed her with spiritual gifts.
After she had become the head of the monastery, the young pagan Philostrates (one of her former lovers) heard of her conversion to Christ and longed to see her again. Aflame with impious passion, he came into the monastery in the guise of a monk and began to urge Eudokia to return to Heliopolis, and resume her former life. “May God rebuke you and not allow you to leave these premises,” Eudokia cried. Then the impostor fell down dead. Fearing that she had served as an accomplice to murder, the sisters intensified their prayer and besought the Lord to reveal to them His will.
The Lord appeared to Saint Eudokia in a vision and said: “Arise, Eudokia, and pray for the resurrection of the dead man.” Through Eudokia’s prayers, Philostrates revived. Having been restored to life, the pagan begged the nun to forgive him. After he was baptized, he went back to Heliopolis. From that time he never forgot the mercy of God shown him, and he started onto the way of repentance.
Some time passed, and another situation occurred. Inhabitants of Heliopolis reported to the governor Aurelian, that Eudokia had taken gold and silver out of the city and concealed it at the monastery. Aurelian sent a detachment of soldiers to confiscate these supposed treasures. For three days the soldiers tried in vain to approach the walls of the monastery, but an invisible power of God guarded it.
Aurelian again sent soldiers to the monastery, this time under the command of his own son. But on the very first day of the journey Aurelian’s son injured his leg and soon died. Then Philostrates counseled Aurelian to write to Mother Eudokia, imploring her to revive the youth. And the Lord, in His infinite mercy, and through the prayers of Saint Eudokia, restored the youth to life. Having witnessed this great miracle, Aurelian and his close associates believed in Christ and were baptized.
When persecutions against Christians intensified, they arrested Eudokia and brought her to the governor Diogenes to be tortured. While torturing the saint, the military commander Diodorus received news of the sudden death of his wife Firmina. In despair he rushed to Saint Eudokia with a plea to pray for his departed wife. The monastic martyr, filled with great faith, turned to God with prayer and besought Him to return Firmina to life. As eyewitnesses of the power and grace of the Lord, Diodorus and Diogenes believed in Christ and were baptized together with their families. Saint Eudokia lived for awhile at the house of Diodorus and enlightened the newly-illumined Christians.
Once,the only son of a certain widow, who was working in the garden, was bitten by a snake and died. The mother wept bitterly for her dead son, and asked Diodorus to resurrect him. Learning of her grief, Saint Eudokia said to Diodorus, “The time is at hand for you to show faith in the Almighty God, Who hears the prayers of penitent sinners and in His mercy grants them forgiveness.”
Diodorus was distressed, not considering himself worthy of such boldness before the Lord, but he obeyed Saint Eudokia. He prayed and in the name of Christ he commanded the dead one to rise, and before the eyes of everyone present the youth revived.
Saint Eudokia returned to her monastery, where she lived in asceticism for fifty-six years.
After Diogenes died the new governor was Vicentius, a fierce persecutor of Christians. Having learned of the accomplishments of the saint, he gave orders to execute her. The holy martyr was beheaded on March 1, 107.
Venerable Martyrius of Zelenets, Pskov
Saint Martyrius of Zelenets, in the world Menas, was born in the city of Veliki Luki (Great Meadow) in the sixteenth century. His parents, Cosmas and Stephanida, died when he was just ten years old. He was raised by his spiritual Father, a priest of the city’s Annunciation church, and the child’s soul cleaved to God.
The widowed priest Boris became a monk with the name Bogolep at the Trinity-Sergius monastery in Veliki Luki. Menas often visited him at the monastery, and later on he himself received monastic tonsure there taking the name Martyrius. For seven years both teacher and disciple toiled for the Lord unrelentingly in a single cell, encouraging each other in deeds of work and prayer. Saint Martyrius had the obediences of “kellarios” [cellarer], treasurer, and “ponomar” [or altar server].
It was at this time that the Mother of God first showed Her special solicitude for Saint Martyrius. At mid-day he dozed off in the bell tower and beheld the Tikhvin (Hodēgḗtria) icon of the Most Holy Theotokos in a fiery column. The monk venerated it, and it was still hot from the fiery column. When he awoke, he still felt this heat on his forehead.
On the spiritual advice of Saint Martyrius, the grievously ill monk Abramius went to venerate the wonderworking Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God, and he received healing. Saint Martyrius was filled with intense faith in the intercession of the Mother of God. He began to pray that the Heavenly Queen would show him where he might go for the ascetic feat of complete silence, for which his soul yearned.
The monk secretly withdrew into a desolate place situated 60 versts from Veliki Luki. As he himself writes, “in this wilderness I received fearful visitations from demons, but I prayed to God, and the demons were put to shame.”
In a letter to Elder Bogolep, Saint Martyrius asked his blessing to dwell in the wilderness, but the spiritual father advised him to return to the cenobitic life where he would be of use to the brethren. Not daring to disobey his experienced Elder, and not knowing how to proceed, Saint Martyrius went to Smolensk to venerate the wonderworking Hodēgḗtria [She who leads the way] Icon of the Mother of God and the relics of Saints Abramius and Ephraim (August 21). These saints appeared to Saint Martyrius in a dream, and they reassured him that he would be permitted to live in the wilderness, “wherever God will bless and the Most Holy Theotokos will guide you.”
Saint Martyrius then went to the Tikhvin monastery, hoping that the Mother of God would resolve his dilemma. The monk Abramius, who remained at this monastery in gratitude to the Mother of God for his healing, told Saint Martyrius about a secret place, over which he had seen a radiant Cross of stars. This time he received the blessing of the Elder. Saint Martyrius took with him two small icons: one of the Life-Creating Trinity, and the other of the Tikhvin Mother of God. He then settled in Zelents (the green island), which was a beautiful island in a forested swamp.
Harsh and painful was the life of the monk in the wilderness, but neither cold, nor deprivation, nor wild beasts, nor the wiles of the enemy were able to shake his resolve. He built a small chapel for the glorification of, and in gratitude to, the Lord and the Most Holy Theotokos. He was again deemed worthy to see an icon of the Mother of God in a dream. This time it was floating on the sea. To the right of the icon he saw the Archangel Gabriel who told him to venerate the icon. Saint Martyrius went into the water, and the icon began to sink in the sea. The saint then cried out, and a wave carried him to shore. With that, the icon vanished.
The wilderness was sanctified by the life of the hermit, and many began to arrive, not only to be instructed by the word and example of the monk, but also to settle there with him. The increased number of disciples prompted the monk to build a church dedicated to the Life-Creating Trinity, where he placed his own icons of the Trinity and of the Tikhvin Mother of God. As a sign of the grace of God resting upon the monastery of Saint Martyrius, his disciple Saint Gurias was permitted to see a Cross in the heavens, shining over the cross on top of the church.
This was the beginning of the Trinity Zelenets monastery, “the green wilderness monastery of Martyrius.” The Lord blessed his labors, and the grace of God shone visibly upon him. The fame of his discernment and gift of healing became known to many. Many eminent people of Novgorod began to send gifts to the monastery. With funds provided by the pious boyar Theodore Syrkov, a heated church was built and consecrated in honor of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos in memory of the first church at Veliki Luki, from which the saint had begun his path to God.
Saint Martyrius continued to receive help from the Mother of God. She appeared to him on a bench in the corner where the icons stood. The saint recalled: “I looked upon Her without lowering my eyes… I gazed upon Her holy face, at her eyes filled with tears, ready to trickle down Her all-pure face. I awoke from the dream and was afraid. I lit a candle from the lampada, in order to see whether or not the Most Pure Virgin sat at the place where I saw Her in the dream. I went up to the icon of the Hodēgḗtria and was convinced that in truth the Mother of God had appeared to me as She is depicted on my icon.”
Soon after this (about the year 1570) Saint Martyrius was ordained priest at Novgorod by the archbishop (Alexander or Leonid). He was already an igumen in 1582.
Later, the Lord granted the Zelenets wilderness monastery an even wealthier benefactor. In 1595 at Tver Saint Martyrius resurrected the son of the former Kasimov ruler Simeon Bekbulatovich, praying in front of his own icons of the Life-Creating Trinity and the Tikhvin Mother of God. He placed both icons upon the chest of the dead child, and he awoke as if from sleep. In gratitude Simeon built a church in honor of the Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God and of Saint John Chrysostom, the Heavenly patron saint of the ruler’s son John.
In 1595 Tsar Theodore endowed the monastery with a sufficient quantity of land for its support.
Having reached a great old age and preparing for death, Saint Martyrius dug a grave for himself, and near it he placed a coffin fashioned by his own hands. He often came there to weep. Sensing his imminent departure, the monk assembled the brethren and told his children in the Lord to have steadfast hope in the Most Holy Trinity and to trust the Mother of God, as he himself had always trusted in Her. After receiving the Holy Mysteries of Christ, he gave the brethren his blessing with the words: “Peace to all the Orthodox.” With spiritual joy he fell asleep in the Lord on March 1, 1603.
The saint was buried in the grave he dug near the church of the Mother of God. Later, his holy relics rested beneath a crypt in the church of the Most Holy Trinity, beneath the lower temple in honor of Saint John the Theologian. Cornelius, a former monk of the Zelenets monastery, and later Metropolitan of Kazan and Novgorod (+ 1698), compiled a service and wrote the Life of Saint Martyrius, making use of personal notes and the saint’s testament.
The memory of Saint Martyrius of Zelenets and Veliki Luki is celebrated also on November 11.
Martyrs Nestor and Tribimius
The Holy Martyrs Nestor and Tribiminus were natives of the Asia Minor district of Pamphylia. They fearlessly preached Christ during a persecution in the reign of the impious emperor Decius (249-251).
When the saints were brought before the pagan court, the governor ordered that all sorts of instruments of torture be placed before them in order to frighten them and force them to renounce the Christian Faith. The saints replied that no one could separate them from Christ.
The angry judge then gave orders to torture them. They scourged the holy martyrs with dried ox thongs, suspended them from a tree and flayed their bodies, but Saints Nestor and Tribiminus did not cease to glorify the Lord. When they were beheaded, they inherited the Heavenly Kingdom.
Martyr Antonina of Nicea, in Bithynia
The Holy Martyr Antonina suffered at Nicea during a persecution under the emperor Maximian (284-305). After fierce tortures, Saint Antonina was thrown into prison, but Maximian could not force the saint to renounce Christ and offer sacrifice to idols.
Angels of God appeared to the holy martyr and the executioners took fright. Even when they placed her on a red-hot metal bed, Saint Antonina remained unharmed, by the power of God. Finally, after long torture they sewed the saint into a sack and sank it in a lake.
Martyrs Marcellus and Anthony of Syria
Saint Marcellus and Saint Anthony were thrown into a fire, where they shone forth brighter than gold in a crucible, receiving crowns of martyrdom from Christ our God.
Saint Domnina the Younger of Syria
The Life of Saint Domnina the Younger1 was written by Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his Historia Religiosa (English title: A History of the Monks of Syria), containing the Lives of thirty ascetics.
The holy virgin Domina was born in the city of Cyrrhus in Syria, to pious and God-loving parents. From a young age she envied the life of the holy ascetics and emulated Saint Maron († February 14) by building a shack in a corner of her mother's garden. Her only food was lentils soaked in water. Early in the morning, and again at night, she went to the church, in order to pray and glorify the name of God. She always covered herself with a cloak so that no one would see her face. Theodoret says she spoke "softly and indistinctly, and her words were always accompanied by tears.”
After a long life of austere asceticism, the Venerable Domnina reposed in peace around the year 460.
1 Not to be confused with another Saint Domnina commemorated on October 4.
Venerable Agapius of Vatopedi
Saint Agapius of the Holy Mountain, was a novice in obedience to a virtuous Elder who lived in silence at the Holy Trinity kellia at Kolitsa, within the boundaries of Vatopedi on Mt. Athos. He was taken into captivity by Turks who had landed on the shore of Athos. They took him to Magnesia and there he worked in chains for twelve years. But he did not lose hope for freedom and fervently he prayed to the Mother of God to free him from this bitter captivity.
The Queen of Heaven manifested Her Mercy to the patient sufferer. She appeared to him in a dream and ordered him “to go to his Elder without fear.” When he awoke, he saw that he was free of his bonds, and the doors were open. Without hindrance, Saint Agapius departed from his master and returned to Mount Athos.
The Elder grieved when he saw his novice, for he thought that Agapius had secretly escaped from his master. “You have deceived the Hagarene,” he said, “but no one can deceive God. If you wish to save yourself, return to your master and serve him.” Saint Agapius returned to his master without complaint.
The Moslem was amazed to see Agapius after he had escaped. Hearing the story of what had happened, he was struck by the virtue of Agapius’ Elder and the loftiness of the Christian Faith. The master and his two sons went to the Holy Mountain with Saint Agapius. There they were baptized and became monks, living in asceticism for the rest of their lives.
Saint Agapius lived in the thirteenth century.
Saint David, Bishop of Wales
Saint David, Patron of Wales, said to have been the son of a Welsh chieftain, lived in the latter half of the sixth century. Ordained to the priesthood, he studied under the tutorship of a disciple of Saint Germanus, who later became Bishop of the Isle of Man, and engaged in missionary work and the building of churches in many places. Eventually, he settled in the southwest corner of Wales, at Menevia. There he founded a monastery known for its extreme austerity, in imitation of the desert fathers. Eventually he was consecrated Bishop of the primatial See of Wales, Menevia, afterwards known as Saint David’s in his honor. He reposed in the Lord about the year 601 AD and, through the years, has been venerated as one of the greatest and most beloved saints of the British Isles.