2ND WEDNESDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Theophylact the Confessor, Bishop of Nicomedia, Hermas the Apostle of the 70, Dometios the Righteous, Paul the Confessor, Felix of Burgundy, Enlightener of East Anglia
But the LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows himself holy in righteousness. Then shall the lambs graze as in their pasture, fatlings and kids shall feed among the ruins. Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, who say: “Let him make haste, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!” Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and smote them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away and his hand is stretched out still.
Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad; and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael the father of Methushael, and Methushael the father of Lamech. And Lamech took two wives; the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah bore Tubalcain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubalcain was Naamah. Lamech said to his wives: "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken to what I say: I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold." And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, "God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him." To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD.
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely hind, a graceful doe. Let her affection fill you at all times with delight, be infatuated always with her love. Why should you be infatuated, my son, with a loose woman and embrace the bosom of an adventuress? For a man's ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he watches all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is caught in the toils of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is lost.
My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger; if you are snared in the utterance of your lips, caught in the words of your mouth; then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into your neighbor's power: go, hasten, and importune your neighbor.
Saint Theophylactus, Bishop of Nicomedia
Saint Theophylactus lived at Constantinople in the eighth century during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of the iconoclast emperor Leo IV the Khazar (775-780), Emperor Constantine VI (780-797) ascended the throne. At the same time, the holy Patriarch Paul (August 30), not having the strength to continue guiding the flock in the face of iconoclasm, voluntarily resigned his office (784). Saint Tarasius (February 25) was chosen in his place. At that time, he was an eminent imperial counselor. Under the supervision of the new Patriarch the Seventh Ecumenical Council (787) was convened to condemn the Iconoclast heresy. A relatively peaceful time began for the Church, and monasteries again began to fill with monks.
Saint Theophylactus, a gifted disciple of Saint Tarasius, with the blessing of the Patriarch, went to a monastery on the coast of the Black Sea with Saint Michael (May 23). The zealous ascetics by their God-pleasing labors and intense prayer were granted the gift of wonderworking by God. During a drought, when the workers in the field were weakened by thirst, the saints prayed and an empty vessel became filled with enough water to last the entire day.
After several years in the monastery, they were both consecrated as bishops by Patriarch Tarasius. Saint Michael was made Bishop of Synada, and Saint Theophylactus was made Bishop of Nicomedia.
Heading the Church of Nicomedia, Saint Theophylactus cared for the flock entrusted to him. He built churches, hospices, homes for wanderers, he generously distributed alms, was the guardian of orphans, widows and the sick, and personally attended those afflicted with leprosy, not hesitating to wash their wounds.
When the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820) came to the imperial throne, the terrible heresy burst forth with renewed strength.
But the iconoclast emperor was not able to influence Saint Nikēphóros (June 2), the successor of Patriarch Tarasius, who with the other bishops vainly urged Leo not to destroy the peace of the Church. Saint Theophylactus was present at the negotiations of the emperor with the Patriarch. Denouncing the heretics, Saint Theophylactus predicted a speedy death for Leo the Armenian. For his bold prophecy the saint was sent into exile to the fortress Strobil (in Asia Minor). He languished for thirty years until his death, which took place around the year 845.
After the restoration of icon-veneration in the year 847 under the empress Saint Theodora (February 11) and her son Michael, the holy relics of Saint Theophylactus were returned to Nicomedia.
Venerable Lazarus of Murom
Saint Lazarus of Murom was a Greek, born at Constantinople. In his native city he became a monk at the High-Mount monastery under the Elder Athanasius Diskotes, builder of many monasteries. Eight years later, Lazarus was under the guidance of Bishop Basil of Caesarea. In the year 1343 Bishop Basil, wanting to encourage the Russian Church, sent Saint Lazarus as a noted iconographer together with monks and gifts to Saint Basil, Archbishop of Novgorod (February 10, October 4, June 3).
Saint Lazarus made a copy of Novgorod’s Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (August 15) for the Caesarea diocese, and compiled an account of Novgorod churches and monasteries. Meeting the monk, the Novgorod hierarch bowed to the ground to his guest and blessed him to remain in a monastery he built. For ten years Saint Lazarus faithfully served Saint Basil, and in 1352 upon the death of the holy archpastor, he “dressed the holy body in the prepared clothing and shed many tears.”
Previously, Saint Lazarus had received letters informing him of the death of Bishop Basil of Caesarea. Grieved that he had been deprived of both his guides, the Saint considered returning to his native land. However, in a dream the Novgorod hierarch appeared to him and directed him “to go northward towards the sea, to Mucha Island in Lake Onega” (Murom Island in Lake Onega). In a short time his first guide, Bishop Basil of Caesarea, commanded him in a dream to go to that same place and found a monastery. The Chronicles say that at this time the Novgorodians were making their first attempts to convert the peoples of the White Sea coastal region to Christianity.
But Saint Lazarus was not able to get to this island at once. For a long time, the owner of the island, the Novgorod merchant Ivan, would not permit him. The monk prayed fervently to the Most Holy Theotokos and to Saint John the Forerunner, and he wept at the grave of Saint Basil; and the owner’s resistance was removed. Saint Basil once appeared to him in a dream and ordered him to bestow the island “to our friend Lazarus”, so that the Mother of God might be honored there.
Saint Lazarus arrived alone at the blessed spot. He set up a cross, a hut, and a chapel. Soon the Lopari and Chud natives living on the island heard about him, and he endured much suffering from them. They burned down his hut and did what damage they could. They beat him, chased him from the island, and pursued him in order to kill him. But God and the Queen of Heaven guarded the saint.
At the site of the burned hut the icon of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos again appeared to Saint Lazarus, miraculously undamaged by the fire. It was with this icon that they had blessed him when he became a monk, and from it was heard a commanding Voice: “The faithless people shall become faithful, and there will be one Church and one flock of Christ. Establish upon this place a church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.”
Another time the saint saw how this place was blessed by “a Woman of majesty, radiant with golden hue, and resplendent men who made reverence to Her.” Soon the eldest of the Lopari came to the monk and begged him to heal a child born blind: “… then we shall depart from the island, as your servants have been commanded.” Saint Lazarus perceived that this was an angel, and he gave thanks unto the Lord. He healed the blind child after praying and sprinkling him with holy water. Then those resisting the Saint quit the island. The father of the healed child later became a monk and all his sons were baptized.
From that time, people started coming to the saint from faraway places. He baptized them, and tonsured them into monasticism. Even his fellow countrymen came to him from Constantinople, the holy Monks Eleazar, Eumenius and Nazarius (June 4), future founders of the Monastery of the Forerunner in the Olonetsk region.
Visiting Novgorod, Saint Lazarus received from Bishop Moses (1352-1360) his blessing for the construction of a monastery, together with an antimension and some church vessels. A church was built in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, the first in all the coastal region; also a church of the Resurrection of Lazarus, and even a wooden church of Saint John the Forerunner together with a trapeza.
The Murom Dormition monastery was built up and strengthened by its zealous head Saint Lazarus until his old age.
The time of his death was revealed to him in a vision by his faithful protector, Saint Basil of Novgorod. Having chosen a worthy successor, the Athonite Elder Theodosius, and after receiving the Holy Life-Creating Mysteries and blessing everyone, Saint Lazarus departed to the Lord on March 8, 1391 at the age of 105 years. They buried him in a chapel beside the church of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.
The Life of Saint Lazarus was written by the Elder Theodosius from the words of the monk himself.
Venerable Athanasius of Murom
Igumen Athanasius labored in the monastery of Saint Lazarus of Murom, or Murmansk, in the mid-fifteenth century. Unfortunately, there is no information about his godly life. After his repose, the body of Saint Athanasius was placed in a special chapel, and here his chains are kept as evidence of his exploits. The ascetic is revered locally in the monastery of Saint Lazarus along with the latter. The veneration of Saint Athanasius goes back a long time. In the second half of the seventeenth century Igumen Athanasius was described as a “venerable wonderworker.”
A troparion and a kontakion in honor of Saint Athanasius are known to exist.
In iconography Saint Athanasius is depicted with a prayer rope in his left hand, while in his right hand he holds a rolled-up scroll as a symbol of his teaching. If the scroll is open, the inscription reads: “Listen, my brother, and do not sin until the end of the age.” In an icon of Saints Lazarus and Athanasius from Murom’s Dormition Monastery, the Saints are depicted full length, praying to the Savior in heaven.
Sometimes Saint Athanasius is shown with his head uncovered, short hair, and a long dark beard, pointed at the tip. He is wearing a light green robe and a brown mantle with a blue Schema and a kukulion on his shoulders. Above is the inscription: “Saint Athanasius of Murom, Wonderworker.”
Apostle Hermḗs of the Seventy
Saint Hermḗs is mentioned by the Holy Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (16:14). According to Tradition, he was the Bishop of Dalmatia and reposed in peace. In the Synaxarion of Hippolyte Delehaye (1902) he is called Ermylos. In the Paris Codex 13 f. 296 he is listed on April 8 along with with Herodion, Asynkritos (Bishop of Hyrkania in Asia), Phlegon (Bishop of Marathon), Rufus and his mother (whom Saint Paul refers to as his mother, as well), Epaphras, and Agabos.
Hieromartyr Theodoritus of Antioch
Saint Theodoritus was a presbyter and keeper of sacred vessels at the cathedral church in Antioch. This church was built and richly adorned by the emperor Saint Constantine the Great (May 21) and his son Constantius, and the people called it “the Golden church.” Having occupied the throne after the death of the emperor Constantius (337-361), Julian the Apostate (361-363) decided to restore paganism throughout the Roman Empire.
The emperor appointed his uncle, also named Julian, as prefect of Antioch. He ordered him to close the Christian churches, and to send the valuables within them to the imperial treasury. Wanting to please the emperor, the prefect, also an apostate from Christianity, set about his impious task with zeal.
Arriving at Antioch with the dignitary Felix, he gave orders to lock up the priest Theodoritus under guard, and he began his plundering, defiling the altar and the holy altar table. One of those present, Euzoios, tried to admonish him for his impiety, and for this he was killed. Julian accused Theodoritus of hiding the church valuables, but the venerable keeper of vessels denied the accusation and openly denounced Julian for his apostasy.
Despite beastly tortures, the holy martyr maintained his faith in Christ the Savior, and predicted a speedy death for Julian and the emperor for their sacrilege.
The soldiers torturing the faithful presbyter were struck by his firmness and endurance, and by the power of the Word of God. They were converted to Christ, for which they were drowned in the sea.
The holy confessor was beheaded. The mockery and sacrilege of the pagans did not go unpunished, and the predictions of Saint Theodoritus were soon fulfilled. The prefect Julian died in agony from a grievous illness, and the emperor Julian perished in a campaign against the Persians.
It is possible that this Saint Dometius is the same as Saint Dometius the Persian who is commemorated on August 7 with his two disciples.
Kursk Root Icon of the Mother of God “of the Sign”
This is a copy of the famous “Kursk Root” Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos commemorated on November 27.
Saint Felix of Burgundy, Bishop of Dunwich, Enlightener of East Anglia
Saint Felix, the Apostle of East Anglia, was born in the Burgundy region of Gaul (now France). It was he who converted Sigebert (September 27), King of East Anglia, while he was in exile in Gaul. He was forced to flee there, in order to save himself from the intrigues of his kinsmen.
When Saint Sigebert (or Sigerberht, which means "bright victory") was summoned home to claim his ancestral crown, he invited his Spiritual Father, Saint Felix, to leave Gaul to assist him in converting his idolatrous subjects to Christianity. Saint Felix was consecrated as a bishop in 631 by Archbishop Honorius of Canterbury (September 30), who sent him to preach in East Anglia.
The new Bishop was quite successful in his ministry. After seventeen years he had converted almost the entire region. He established churches, monasteries, and a school for boys with the help of King Siegbert, and Saint Felix provided him with teachers from Canterbury. Because of this, some regard him as the founder of the university of Cambridge. Saint Felix also established schools at Felixstoe and at Flixton, or Felixton.
After after two years, King Sigebert abdicated in favor of his cousin Egric, and entered the monastery at Cnobersburgh, now Burgh Castle in Suffolk, the monastery he had founded for Saint Fursey, or Fursa (January 16), who had lived there for about ten years. In 642, after Saint Sigebert was killed in battle against King Penda of Mercia, Saint Fursey made a pilgrimage to Rome. Then he travelled to Gaul, where he established a monastery at Lagny-sur-Marne, near Paris, around the year 644.
Saint Felix reposed in 648 and was buried at Dunwich, but his relics were transferred to Ramsey Abbey in Huntingdonshire in 971. Saint Felix has given his name to Felixstowe in Suffolk, and to Felixkirk in Yorkshire. He is mentioned by Saint Bede (History of the English Church and People, Book 3, chapters 18 and 20).
Dunwich was once a large city, with fifty-two religious establishments, but was gradually swallowed up by the sea. The remains of the steeples may still be seen, underwater, about five miles from shore.
Icon of the Mother of God of “the Sign”
On March 8, 1898, a group of anarchists who hoped to undermine the people’s faith in the Kursk-Root Icon’s wonderworking power, decided to destroy it. They placed a time bomb in the Cathedral of the Sign in the city of Kursk, and at 2 o’clock in the morning there was a devastating explosion that shook the monastery's walls.
The frightened monks ran immediately to the cathedral, where they saw horrible devastation. The force of the blast shattered the gilded canopy above the Icon. The heavy marble base, with several massive steps, had been jolted out of position and had split into several pieces. A huge metal candlestick which had stood in front of the Icon was blown to the opposite side of the cathedral. A cast iron door near the Icon of the Mother of God was torn from its hinges and was thrown outward where it smashed against a wall and made a deep crack. All the windows in the cathedral, including those in the dome overhead, were shattered. Amid the general devastation, the holy Icon remained in one piece and even the glass within the frame was intact. Instead of destroying the Kursk-Root Icon, the anarchists had, on the contrary, become the cause of its greater glorification.
The principal Feast Day of the Kursk-Root Icon is on November 27. It is also commemorated on September 8, the day of its appearance in 1259.