2ND TUESDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
The Holy Martyred Bishops of Cherson: Basileus, Ephraim, Eugene, Capito, Aetherius, Agathodorus, and Elpidius, Lavrentios of Megara, the Righteous, Paul the Simple
Thus says the Lord: 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! Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.” Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening till wine inflames them! They have lyre and harp, timbrel and flute and wine at their feasts; but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands. Therefore my people go into exile for want of knowledge; their honored men are dying of hunger, and their multitude is parched with thirst. Therefore Sheol has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth beyond measure, and the nobility of Jerusalem and her multitude go down, her throng and he who exults in her. Man is bowed down, and men are brought low, and the eyes of the haughty are humbled. But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness.
Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth." Cain said to the LORD, "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me." Then the LORD said to him, "Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him.
My son, be attentive to my wisdom, incline your ear to my understanding; that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a loose woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not take heed to the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house; lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless; lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of an alien; and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, "How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I was at the point of utter ruin in the assembled congregation." Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.
The Holy Hieromartyrs of Cherson: Basil, Ephraim, Capito, Eugene, Aetherius, Elpidius, and Agathodorus
The Hieromartyrs Basil, Ephraim, Eugene, Elpidius, Agathodorus, Aetherius, and Capiton carried the Gospel of Christ into the North Black Sea region from the Danube to the Dniper, including the Crimea. They were bishops of Cherson at different times during the fourth century, and they sealed their apostolic activity with martyrdom. Only Aetherius died in peace.
Long before the Baptism of Rus under Saint Vladimir, the Christian Faith had already spread into the Crimea, which in antiquity was called Tauridia and was ruled by the Roman Emperor. The beginning of the enlightenment of Tauridia is attributed to the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called (November 30).
The Church’s enemies unwittingly contributed to the further spread of Christianity. The Roman emperors often banished traitors to this area. During the first three centuries, Christians were regarded as traitors because they would not follow the state religion. In the reign of Trajan (98-117), Saint Clement, Bishop of Rome (November 25), was sent to work in a stone quarry near Cherson. There he continued his preaching, and suffered martyrdom.
The pagans inhabiting the Crimea stubbornly resisted the spread of Christianity. But the faith of Christ, through its self-sacrificing preachers, grew strong and was affirmed. Many missionaries gave their lives in this struggle.
At the beginning of the fourth century a bishop’s See was established at Cherson. This was a critical period when Cherson served as a base for the Roman armies which constantly passed through the area. During the reign of Diocletian (284-305), the Patriarch of Jerusalem sent many bishops to preach the Gospel in various lands. Two of them, Ephraim and Basil, arrived in Cherson and planted the Word of God there.
Later on, Saint Ephraim went to the peoples living along the Danube, where he underwent many tribulations and sorrows. He was beheaded at the start of the persecution. The preaching at Cherson was continued by Saint Basil, Saint Ephraim’s companion. He set many idol-worshippers on the path of truth. Other wayward inhabitants of the city, enraged at his activity, rose up against him. The saint was arrested, mercilessly beaten and expelled from the city.
He went to a mountain and settled in a cave, where he unceasingly prayed to God for those who had driven him out, asking that He might illumine them with the light of true knowledge. And the Lord provided the unbelievers with a miracle. The only son of an important citizen of Cherson died. The dead child appeared to his parents in a dream and said that a certain man named Basil could resurrect him from the dead by his prayers.
When the parents had found the saint and entreated him to work the miracle, Saint Basil replied that he himself was a sinful man and had not the power to raise the dead, but the Lord Almighty could fulfill their request if they were to believe in Him. For a long time the saint prayed, invoking the Name of the Holy Trinity. Then he blessed water, and sprinkled it on the dead one, who was restored to life. The saint returned to the city with honor, and many believed and were baptized.
Soon, by order of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311), the persecution against Christians spread with renewed force. The Christ-haters rose up also against Saint Basil. On March 7, 309 he was dragged from his house during the night. They tied him up, dragged him along the streets and beat him to death with stones and rods. The body of the saint was thrown out of the city to be eaten by dogs and birds, and for many days it was left unburied, but remained untouched. Then Christians secretly buried the body of the holy martyr in a cave.
A year after the martyrdom of Saint Basil, three of his companions, Bishops Eugene, Elpidius and Agathodorus, ceased their preaching in the Hellespont, and arrived at Cherson to continue his holy work. They endured many hardships for the salvation of human souls. All three bishops shared the fate of their predecessor: they were stoned to death by the pagans on March 7, 311.
When Constantine the Great (May 21) took the throne, Bishop Aetherius was sent by emperor Constantine to Cherson from Jerusalem. At first he also encountered hostility on the part of the pagans, but the holy emperor would not tolerate acts of violence against the preacher. He issued a decree permitting the Christians of Cherson to have church services without hindrance. Through the efforts of Saint Aetherius a church was built in the city, where the saint peacefully governed his flock.
Saint Aetherius journeyed to Constantinople to thank the emperor for protecting the Christians. He fell ill and died on the return trip.
The holy emperor Constantine then sent Bishop Capiton to Cherson to replace Saint Aetherius. The Christians met him with joy, but the pagans demanded a sign from the new bishop, so they might believe in the God Whom he preached. Placing all his hope on the Lord, Saint Capiton put on his omophorion and went into a burning furnace. He prayed in the fire for about an hour, and emerged from it unharmed. “Shall anyone bind fire in his bosom, and not burn his garments?” Solomon asks (Prov. 6:27). Saint Capiton carried red-hot coals in his phelonion, yet neither his body nor his garments were scorched. Many of the unbelievers were then persuaded in the power of the Christian God.
This miracle and the great faith of Saint Capiton were reported to Saint Constantine and the holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (325), and they all glorified God.
After several years Saint Capiton journeyed to Constantinople on business, but the ship encountered a storm at the mouth of the Dniepr River. The local people (pagans) seized the ship and drowned all those on board, including Saint Capiton. Although this occurred on December 21, Saint Capiton is commemorated with the other hieromartyrs of Cherson on March 7.
Venerable Paul the Simple, disciple of Venerable Anthony the Great
Saint Paul the Simple of Egypt also lived in the fourth century and was called the Simple for his simplicity of heart and gentleness. He had been married, but when he discovered his wife’s infidelity, he left her and went into the desert to Saint Anthony the Great (January 17). Paul was already 60 years old, and at first Saint Anthony would not accept Paul, saying that he was unfit for the harshness of the hermit’s life. Paul stood outside the cell of the ascetic for three days, saying that he would sooner die than go from there. Then Saint Anthony took Paul into his cell, and tested his endurance and humility by hard work, severe fasting, with nightly vigils, constant singing of Psalms and prostrations. Finally, Saint Anthony decided to settle Paul into a separate cell.
During the many years of ascetic exploits the Lord granted Saint Paul both discernment, and the power to cast out demons. When they brought a possessed youth to Saint Anthony, he guided the afflicted one to Saint Paul saying, “I cannot help the boy, for I have not received power over the Prince of the demons. Paul the Simple, however, does have this gift.” Saint Paul expelled the demon by his simplicity and humility.
After living for many years, performing numerous miracles, he departed to the Lord. He is mentioned by Saint John, the Abbot of Sinai (Ladder 24:30): “The thrice-blessed Paul the Simple was a clear example for us, for he was the rule and type of blessed simplicity….”
Saint Paul is also commemorated on October 4.
Saint Paul the Confessor, Bishop of Plousias in Bithynia
Saint Paul the Confessor was bishop of the city of Plousias (in the province of Bithynia in Asia Minor) at a time when the iconoclasts raged against the Church of Christ. His zealous defense of the holy icons was based on Holy Scripture. Saint Paul was subjected to harassment and persecution together with Saint Theophylactus (March 8). The holy confessor was sent into exile, and reposed around the year 850.
Saint Emilian of Rome
Saint Emilian of Italy (in the world Victorinus) was a Roman by birth, and until he was an old man, he led a sinful life. He finally repented, withdrew to a monastery, and became a monk with the name of Emilian. For the remainder of his days he humbly served God, astounding the brethren by his uncomplaining obedience and strict fasting. The monks noticed that at night Emilian secretly visited a cave near the monastery. Once, the igumen followed him and found Saint Emilian in the cave, praying with tears of contrition, and illumined by an unearthly light. He heard a Voice saying, “Emilian, your sins are forgiven.”
Deeply moved by all that had happened, the igumen after morning services asked the Elder to tell the brethren his secret, and the saint told everyone of God’s great mercy toward him. Then the igumen said to the brethren, “The Lord could have forgiven him his sin in secret, but for our sake He revealed His mercy with light and a voice, so that we might behold His grace and mercy toward sinners who repent.”
Saint Emilian spent the remainder of his days in spiritual joy, and peacefully departed to the Lord.
Icon of the Mother of God “the Surety of sinners” of Odrino, Orlov
The Icon of the Mother of God “Surety of Sinners” is known by this name because of the inscription on the icon: “I am the Surety of sinners for My Son Who has entrusted Me to hear them, and those who bring Me the joy of hearing them will receive eternal joy through Me.” The Mother of God embraces Her Child, Who holds Her right hand with both His hands so that Her thumb is in His right hand, and Her small finger in His left hand. This is the gesture of one who gives surety for another.
Although we do not know when or by whom the icon was originally painted, it is believed that the basis of the icon is to be found in the Akathist to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Rejoice, You Who offer Your hands in surety for us to God.”
This icon was first glorified by miracles at the Saint Nicholas Odrino men’s monastery of the former Orlov gubernia in the mid-nineteenth century (the “Assuage My Sorrows Icon” commemorated on October 9 is also from this monastery). The “Surety of Sinners” icon of the Mother of God was in an old chapel beyond the monastery gates, and stood between two other ancient icons. Because it was so faded and covered with dust, it was impossible to read the inscription.
In 1843 it was revealed to many of the people in dreams that the icon was endowed with miraculous power. They solemnly brought the icon into the church. Believers began to flock to it to pray for the healing of their sorrows and sicknesses. The first to receive healing was a crippled child, whose mother prayed fervently before the icon in 1844. The icon was glorified during a cholera epidemic, when many people fell deathly ill, and were restored to health after praying before the icon.
A large stone church with three altars was built at the monastery in honor of the wonderworking icon.
In 1848, through the zeal of Lt. Col. Demetrius Boncheskul, a copy of the wonderworking “Surety of Sinners” Icon was made and placed in his home. Soon it began to exude a healing myrrh, which was given to many so they might recover their health after grievous illnesses. Boncheskul donated this wonderworking copy to the church of Saint Nicholas at Khamovniki in Moscow, where a chapel was built in honor of the icon.
The “Surety of Sinners” Icon is also commemorated on May 29 and on Thursday of the week of All Saints.