Daily Readings for Monday, March 06, 2023



42 Martyrs of Amorion in Phrygia, Finding the Precious Cross by St. Helen, Hesychios the Wonderworker

ISAIAH 4:2-5:7

In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy and a pavilion. It will be for a shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain. Let me sing for my beloved a love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He digged it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and briers and thorns shall grow up; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry!

GENESIS 3:21-4:7

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”- therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

PROVERBS 3:34-4:22

Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he shows favor. The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.
Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight; for I give you good precepts: do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me, and said to me, "Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Get wisdom; get insight. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a fair garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown." Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction, do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made some one stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart.

42 Martyrs of Ammoria in Phrygia

During a war between the Byzantine Emperor Theophilus (829-842) and the Saracens, the Saracens managed to besiege the city of Ammoria (in Galicia in Asia Minor). As a result of treason on the part of the military commander Baditses, Ammoria fell, and forty-two of its generals were taken captive and sent off to Syria.

During the seven years of their imprisonment, their captors tried in vain to persuade them to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. The captives stubbornly resisted all their seductive offers and bravely held out against terrible threats. After many torments that failed to break the spirit of the Christian soldiers, they condemned them to death, hoping to shake the determination of the saints before executing them. The martyrs remained steadfast, saying that the Old Testament Prophets bore witness to Christ, while Mohammed called himself a prophet without any other witnesses to support his claim.

One of the captives, Theodore, had renounced the priestly office to become a general. His captors taunted him, “We know that you forsook the priestly office, became a soldier and shed blood in battle. You can have no hope in Christ, Whom you abandoned voluntarily, so accept Mohammed.” But the martyr replied, “You do not speak truthfully when you say that I abandoned Christ. Moreover, I left the priesthood because of my own unworthiness. Therefore, I must shed my blood for the sake of Christ, so that He might forgive the sins that I have committed against Him.”

The executioners took each one separately and led him off to be beheaded, then threw the bodies into the River Euphrates. In the service to them, these holy passion-bearers are glorified as: the “All-Blessed” Theodore, the “Unconquered” Callistus, the “Valiant” Constantine, the “Wondrous” Theophilus and “the Most Strong” Basoes. Saints Aetius (Aetitus) and Melissenus were also among the martyrs.

The betrayer Baditses did not escape his shameful fate. The enemy knew that it is impossible to trust a traitor, and so they killed him.

Uncovering of the Precious Cross and the Precious Nails by Empress Saint Helen in Jerusalem

The Holy Empress Helen uncovered the Precious Cross and Nails of the Lord at Jerusalem in 326.

At the beginning of the reign of Saint Constantine the Great (306-337), the first Roman emperor to recognize Christianity, he and his pious mother Saint Helen decided to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. They also planned to build a church on the site of the Lord’s suffering and Resurrection, in order to reconsecrate and purify the places connected with the Savior’s death and Resurrection from the foul taint of paganism.

The empress Helen journeyed to Jerusalem with a large quantity of gold. Saint Constantine wrote a letter to Patriarch Macarius I (313-323), requesting him to assist her in every possible way with her task of the restoring the Christian holy places.

After her arrival in Jerusalem, the holy empress Helen began to destroy all the pagan temples and reconsecrate the places which had been defiled by the pagans.

In her quest for the Life-Creating Cross, she questioned several Christians and Jews, but for a long time her search remained unsuccessful. Finally, an elderly Hebrew named Jude told her that the Cross was buried beneath the temple of Venus. Saint Helen ordered that the pagan temple be demolished, and for the site to be excavated. Soon they found Golgotha and the Lord’s Sepulchre. Not far from the spot were three crosses, a board with the inscription written by Pilate (John 19:19), and four nails which had pierced the Lord’s Body.

Now the task was to determine on which of the three crosses the Savior had been crucified. Patriarch Macarius saw a dead person being carried to his grave, then he ordered that the dead man be placed upon each cross in turn. When the corpse was placed on the Cross of Christ, he was immediately restored to life. After seeing the raising of the dead man, everyone was convinced that the Life-Creating Cross had been found. With great joy the empress Helen and Patriarch Macarius lifted the Life-Creating Cross and displayed it to all the people standing about.

Monastic Martyrs Conon and his son, Conon, of Iconium

The Holy Hieromartyr Conon lived in Iconium (Asia Minor). After he became a widower, he went to a monastery with his son. Because of his devout life the saint was granted help from above. He cast out devils, he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and preached Christ among the pagans, converting many.

Reports of him reached the governor Dometian, a persecutor of Christians. Saint Conon was brought to trial and they ordered him to offer sacrifice to idols, but since he would not, he was handed over for torture. The seventeen-year-old son of the martyr, Deacon Conon, was also brought to trial.

After persuasion failed to make him renounce the True Faith, both father and son were subjected to cruel tortures. They were stripped and laid on a red-hot cot, they were drenched with hot oil, they were thrown into a cauldron with boiling tin, sulfur and tar, they were suspended upside down and scorched with a choking smoke. Preserved by God, the martyrs remained unharmed.

The irate torturers then resorted to a horrible way to destroy the preachers: sawing them in two with a wooden saw. Learning of this sentence, the saints asked time to pray and they cried out to the Lord, “We give thanks to You, O Lord, for permitting us to suffer for Your Name! We beseech You to grant peace to Your Church, put its persecutors to shame, strengthen and increase those who believe in You, grant us to come to You, and give peace unto our souls.”

The Voice of God was heard from above, calling the holy sufferers. Having signed themselves with the Sign of the Cross, the holy martyrs gave up their souls to the Lord. At once, there was an earthquake, and all the pagan temples in the city collapsed.

Monks secretly buried the bodies of the martyrs at the monastery where the saints had labored in asceticism during life. This occurred during the reign of Aurelian in the years 270-275. The relics of the holy martyrs were later transferred to Italy, to the city of Acerno (Campania).

Venerable Arcadius of Cyprus

Saint Arcadius from his youth devoted himself to monastic efforts. The saint struggled on the island of Cyprus during the time of the emperor Constantine the Great (306-337). He was the teacher of the holy Martyrs Julian the Physician and Eubolos, executed under Julian the Apostate (361-363). Bewailing the martyric death of his disciples and having consigned their bodies to the earth, Saint Arcadius soon departed to the Lord.

Icon of the Mother of God “the Blessed Heaven”

The wonderworking "Blessed Heaven" Icon of the Mother of God, is on the iconostasis of Moscow's Archangel Cathedral in the Kremlin, on the left side of the royal gates.

The Most Holy Theotokos, holding the Pre-Eternal Child in her arms, is depicted in full stature and is surrounded by a bright red mandorla with bright rays emanating from it. This Icon is also known as "What shall we call Thee?" from the Theotokion of the First Hour, inscribed at the edge of the radiance emanating from the Mother of God (see today's Icon and Troparion).

The iconographic depiction of the Most Holy Theotokos, beneath whose feet was a crescent moon, illustrates Saint John's words in the Book of Revelation: "And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars … and she brought forth a male child, one who is about to shepherd all the nations with a rod of iron, and her child was caught up to God and to his throne" (Revelation 12:1, 5).

It is said that this Icon was previously in Smolensk, and was brought to Moscow in the XIV century by Sophia, the daughter of the Lithuanian prince Vitovt, when she married Prince Basil of Moscow (1389-1425). Many other ancient icons were sent from Constantinople (according to the record in the Trinity Chronicle for 1398). This Icon became known in 1853 when, during the renovation of the iconostasis of the Archangel Cathedral, Metropolitan Philaret (Drozdov) ordered that historical information be collected concerning the wonderworking Icon. In an inventory of the XVII century (which has not been preserved), it is indicated that the image is a copy of the ancient Icon in the cathedral, made by the masters of the Armory Chamber by decree of Tsar Theodore Alexe'evich.

The "Blessed Heaven" Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, which is currently on the local row of the iconostasis in Archangel Cathedral, was executed by the royal iconographers during the creation of the new iconostasis in 1678–1680, and was placed in a silver embossed oklad. This was stolen in 1812 the old oklad was replaced by a new one in 1815. In 1916, the wonderworking Icon was adorned with a silver riza, and overlaid silver cherubs in the fields, which has not survived to our time.

The prototype of the iconographic depiction of the Mother of God appeared in Germany in the XV century, and was widely copied in Western art. In the XVII century it spread to Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, and then it came to Russia.

At the beginning of the XX century, with the blessing of Saint John of Kronstadt, a copy of the "Blessed Heaven" Icon was made for the sacristy of the church of the Vaulovsky Dormition Skete in the Romanov – Boris and Glen district in Yaroslavl province. Currently, it is kept in the Resurrection Cathedral in Tutaev, Yaroslavl region.

Another copy of the wonderworking Icon is in the church of Christ's Crucifixion in the Great Palace of the Kremlin.

In the second half of the XIX – early XX century, the Icon's commemoration took place twice a year: on March 6, and on the Sunday of All Saints.

“Czestochowa” Icon of the Mother of God

The wonderworking Czestochowa Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos is to be found in a Roman Catholic monastery at Yasna Gora near the city of Czestochowa, Petrov Province. It is believed to be one of the seventy icons painted by the holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke (October 18). Tradition says that the icon was taken from Jerusalem when the Romans conquered the city in the year 66, and was hidden in a cave near Pella. The icon was given to Saint Helen (May 21) when she visited the Holy Land in 326, and she brought it back to Constantinople with her.

Starting in the eighth century the icon traveled to various places, including Galicia, Bavaria, and Moravia. Prince Leo, who founded the city of Lvov, brought the icon to Russia and placed it in the fortress of Belz. There many miracles took place before the holy icon.

Prince Vladislav of Opolsk acquired the icon when the Poles captured southwestern Russia. At the time that Vladislav ruled in Poland, the Tatars invaded Russia and soon appeared before the gates of the fortress of Belz. The prince ordered the icon to be placed atop the city walls as the Tatars began their siege of the fortress. Blood began dripping from the icon where it had been struck by an arrow or some other projectile. Those who witnessed it were fearfully amazed at the sight. The Tatars began to retreat when a dark haze covered them, and many of them died.

Following this miraculous deliverance, Prince Vladislav planned to take the icon to Siesia and to place it in his castle at Opolsk. As preparations for the transfer were being made, Vladislav was overcome with an inexplicable fear. He began to pray before the holy icon, and that night he was told in a vision to take the icon to Yasna Gora near Czestochowa. Vladislav built a monastery at Yasna Gora in 1382 and gave the icon to an order of Roman Catholic monks.

Many years later, followers of John Hus attacked Czestochowa and plundered the monastery. When they attempted to carry the Czestochowa Icon away in a cart, the horses refused to move from the spot, held back by some invisible power. One of the Hussites became angry and threw the icon onto the ground, while another stabbed the face of the Virgin with his sword. The first man was struck dead, and the hand of the second man shriveled up.

The other invaders also suffered punishment from God. Some of them died on the spot, while others became blind. Although many of the monastery’s treasures were stolen by the Hussites, the wonderworking Czestochowa Icon was left behind.

King Carl X Gustav of Sweden occupied most of Poland in the seventeenth century, and his forces remained virtually undefeated until they fought a battle near Yasna Gora and the monastery where the icon was kept. With the help of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Poles were able to overcome the Swedes and end the war in 1656. At Lvov, King Jan Casimir officially decreed that Mother of God was the Queen of Poland, and that the nation was under her protection.

Many miracles have been worked by the Czestochowa Icon, and are recorded in a book which is kept at the Czestochowa monastery. Copies of the icon are found in many Orthodox and Roman Catholic monasteries. Some of these copies are venerated in the village of Pisarevkain in the Volhynia Province (June 29 and September 8), at Verhnaya Syrovatka in the Kharkov Province, at Tyvrov in the Vinits Province (Holy Spirit day), in the Kazan Cathedral at Saint Petersburg, and in several other places.