Daily Readings for Thursday, March 16, 2023



Sabine the Martyr of Egypt, Christodulus the Wonderworker of Patmos, Aristovoulos, Apostle of the 70, Julian the Martyr, Romanos the Hieromartyr of Parium

ISAIAH 11:10-12:2

Thus says the LORD: In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Ethiopia, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea. He will raise an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart, and those who harass Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. But they shall swoop down upon the shoulder of the Philistines in the west, and together they shall plunder the people of the east. They shall put forth their hand against Edom and Moab, and the Ammonites shall obey them. And the LORD will utterly destroy the tongue of the sea of Egypt; and will wave his hand over the River with his scorching wind, and smite it into seven channels that men may cross dryshod. And there will be a highway from Assyria for the remnant which is left of his people, as there was for Israel when they came up from the land of Egypt. You will say in that day: “I will give thanks to thee, O LORD, for though thou wast angry with me, thy anger turned away, and thou didst comfort me. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”

GENESIS 7:11-8:3

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. On the very same day Noah and his sons, Shem and Ham and Japheth, and Noah's wife and the three wives of his sons with them entered the ark, they and every beast according to its kind, and all the cattle according to their kinds, and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth according to its kind, and every bird according to its kind, every bird of every sort. They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And they that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the LORD shut him in. The flood continued forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily upon the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered; the waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, birds, cattle, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm upon the earth, and every man; everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty days. But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually. At the end of a hundred and fifty days the waters had abated.

PROVERBS 10:1-22

A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. A son who gathers in summer is prudent, but a son who sleeps in harvest brings shame. Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot. The wise of heart will heed commandments, but a prating fool will come to ruin. He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out. He who winks the eye causes trouble, but he who boldly reproves makes peace. The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense. Wise men lay up knowledge, but the babbling of a fool brings ruin near. A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. He who heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof goes astray. He who conceals hatred has lying lips, and he who utters slander is a fool. When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the mind of the wicked is of little worth. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense. The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.

Martyr Sabinus of Egypt

The Holy Martyr Sabinus was administrator of the Egyptian city of Hermopolis. During a persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), Saint Sabinus and some like-minded companions hid in a remote village.

His hiding place was revealed by a certain ungrateful beggar who had brought him food. The saint used to feed him and help him with money, but the man betrayed him for two pieces of gold. Sabinus was seized with six other Christians, and after torture they were all drowned in the Nile in 287.

Martyr Papas of Lyconia

The Holy Martyr Papas lived in the city of Laranda (Asia Minor) during the reign of Maximian (305-311). They arrested and tortured him for his belief in Christ. His feet were put into boots with sharp nails hammered into the soles, and made to walk. They took him to the city of Diocaesarea and later to Seleucia, Isauria to stand trial.

St Papas died bound to a barren tree, which then became fruitful.

Saint Serapion, Archbishop of Novgorod

Saint Serapion was born in the village of Pekhorka near Moscow, and from a young age he was inclined toward monasticism. According to the wish of his parents, he entered into marriage, and was ordained to the priesthood. A year later he became a widower and was tonsured at the Dubensk Monastery of the Dormition. Because of his virtuous life he was elected as Igumen of the monastery and he labored so much for it that it later became known by his name – Serapion Hermitage.

Desiring to engage in more rigorous ascetical struggles, the Saint resigned his position and entered the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, where he became the Igumen in 1495. The Saint enjoyed the respect of the Great Prince Ivan Vasilyevich, and at his request, the Prince pardoned three convicted boyars who had been condemned to death.

While attending the Council of 1504, Saint Serapion passionately defended the practice of the Church and Monasteries possessing property, as a means of charity. This brought him into conflict with Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9), who taught that the Church should not own villages and estates.

In 1506 he was consecrated as Archbishop of Novgorod. During a big fire in that city in the year 1508, the Saint tearfully prayed that the Lord would cause it to cease.

Saint Serapion had to endure many troubles. In 1509 he was deprived of his See and exiled to Moscow’s Andronikov Monastery. In 1511 Saint Serapion moved to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, where he spent the remainder of his life in unceasing meditation and prayer, honored by the Lord with the gifts of discernment and of working miracles.

After being tonsured into the Schema, the hierarch reposed in peace on March 16, 1516. His incorrupt relics were found on April 7,1517, and to this day they rest hidden in Serapion’s Pavilion, at Holy Trinity Cathedral, in Trinity-Sergius Lavra.

The Lord has glorified His saint with the gift of miracles, both during his lifetime and after his death. Once, on the Feast of the Dormition, the saint healed a lame man, who for many years had crawled on his feet and hands and feet, leaning on pieces of wood.

In 1608, during the siege of the Lavra by the Poles, many monks and laymen, who came to the temple to pray for his monastery, saw him in the bishop’s vestments.

Apostle Aristobulus of the Seventy, Bishop of Britain

The Holy Apostle Aristóboulos of the Seventy was born on Cyprus. He and his brother, the Apostle Barnabas (June 11), accompanied Saint Paul on his missionary journeys. Saint Aristóboulos is mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 16:10).

There are several conflicting narratives about the hierarch's life before he went to Britain. Some identify him with Zebedee, the father of the Apostles James and John. Others say that he was the father-in-law of the Apostle Peter. Most of these are unreliable, however.

Saint Paul made Aristóboulos a bishop and sent him to preach the Gospel in Britain, Scotland, and Hibernia (Ireland), where he converted many people to Christ. He also had to endure many torments and afflictions from hostile pagans, who beat him and mocked him. Eventually, he won them over and brought them to Christ as well.

Saint Aristóboulos reposed peacefully in Britain among the people he had evangelized. Some sources say he suffered a martyr's death in Wales at an advanced age.

Saint Aristóboulos is also commemorated on October 31 (with Saints Stachys, Apellēs, Amplias, Urban, and Narcissus), and also on the Synaxis of the Seventy Apostles (January 4). In Greek usage he is commemorated on March 15.

Hieromartyr Alexander, Pope of Rome

The Hieromartyr Alexander, Bishop of Rome, served for ten years as the archpastor of Rome. He was burned alive on May 3, 119 by order of the emperor Hadrian (117-138).

Martyr Julian of Anazarbus

The Hieromartyr Julian of Anazarbus suffered for Christ in Antioch, Syria under the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). His relics were glorified by miracles in the time of Saint John Chrysostom. Chrysostom mentions the martyr in his 47th homily.

Hieromartyrs Trophimus and Thalus of Laodicea

The Holy Martyrs Trophimus and Thallus, brothers and presbyters of Syria, served in Carian Laodicea. During a persecution under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) and his co-emperor Maximian (284-305), the brothers were taken under guard and brought before the governor Asclepiodotus. He ordered the holy brothers to be stoned, but the stones which they threw at the saints returned and struck those who threw them.

After a second interrogation, the holy brothers were sentenced to be crucified. Going to execution, they glorified God because they were found worthy of dying on a cross, as the Savior did. The holy martyrs of Christ continued to preach from the cross, and their brave mother stood nearby.

A certain Jewess bowed to the saints and cried out, “Blessed is the mother who gave birth to such sons.” When the martyrs surrendered their souls to God, the prison guard said that he saw the souls of the holy brothers being carried upwards to heaven in the company of three angels.

The people stayed with the bodies of the holy martyrs all night, and in the morning the wife of the torturer Asclepiodotus came to the place of execution with her bejeweled veil. She told the people that in a dream she saw the holy martyrs and the angels sent to punish her husband.

The mother of the martyrs and two Christians, Zosimus and Artemon, buried the holy brothers in their native city of Stratonikea, Lydia. The torturer Asclepiodotus soon fell ill and died a horrible death

Saints Pimen of Salosi and Anton Meskhi, Enlighteners of Dagestan and the North Caucasus people

Saint Pimen the Fool-for-Christ and Anton Meskhi (of Meskheti, in southern Georgia) lived in the 13th century, when the Mongols were regularly invading Georgia. The entire country, and the Church in particular, languished under the yoke of Mongol oppression. The Georgian people were once again faced with a terrible choice: to preserve their temporal flesh or attain spiritual salvation. Most would not yield to the temptation of the enemy and chose instead to die as martyrs for Christ.

At that time a monk named Pimen, a fool-for-Christ, labored in the Davit-Gareji Wilderness. His ancestral roots were in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia. Pimen rebuked kings and condemned the unjust and immoral acts of the nobility. The pious monk Anton Meskhi labored with him.

Enlightened by divine grace, the fathers recognized that the Georgian people were following their king’s poor example. Thus, the monks began a struggle for the spiritual salvation of the nation’s people that demanded the censure of the king. In addition to their labors of foolishness and censuring of kings, the saints preached Christianity among the Dagestani (located to the northeast of Georgia and borders the Caspian Sea).

For their great spiritual achievements and struggles on behalf of godly purity, the Christian Faith, and the spread of the Gospel among the Dagestanis, the Georgian Church has counted Pimen the Fool-for-Christ and Anton Meskhi worthy to be numbered among the saints.

Saint Christódoulos, Wonderworker of Patmos

Our Venerable Father Christódoulos 1) was born near Nicaea of Bithynia circa 1020. His parents' names were Theodore and Anna, and their son received the name John in Holy Baptism. He was renowned as an ascetic and a physician throughout the Byzantine Empire.

In 1043 he was tonsured on Mount Olympus, where, under the guidance of the Elders, he received a broad education. After the death of his Spiritual Father, he made a pilgrimage to the holy places in 1045. He visited Rome and Palestine, and he lived in Asia Minor, and on some Greek islands, where he founded several monasteries.

After the Saracen invasion of Palestine, Father Christódoulos left the Holy Land and in 1070 settled on Mount Latmos, in the stavropegial Monastery of the Theotokos in northwestern Karia. Soon he was chosen as the Superior of that monastery. In 1076, Patriarch Cosmas I of Constantinople installed Father Christódoulos as Archimandrite over all the Latmian monasteries. From 1076–1079, he labored to build and fortify monasteries.

In 1079 the Latmian monasteries were destroyed by the Seljuk Turks. The Saint took refuge with his small community in the city of Strovilos on the Aegean coast, where the hermit Arsenios placed him in charge of his monastery. Father Christódoulos soon moved to the nearby island of Kos, the least affected by Muslim incursions. There Arsenios had several estates, and on Mount Pelion, at the latter's suggestion, Christódoulos founded the Kastrian Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos in 1080.

In 1087, he founded a monastery on the neighboring island of Leros. In addition, during his stay on the island of Kos, Saint Christódoulos organized an expedition to Mount Latmos in order to rescue the books from the monastic community which he had abandoned. These books were sent to the library of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople for safekeeping.

Seeking greater solitude and austerity, Saint Christódoulos turned his attention to the island of Patmos. He was so struck by the ascetic spirit of these places that he decided to establish a monastery on that island. In 1089, he submitted his first application to Emperor Alexios I Komnenos for a new monastic community on the island of Patmos, in place of the land on the island Kos and on the shores of Karia.

According to a Chrysobull issued in 1088, the Emperor gave the island of Patmos to Father Christódoulos as an eternal, inalienable property, exempting it from all taxes. It forbade government officials to act on the island. In fact, the island was withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the state's administration, and all judicial and administrative power on this island was concentrated in the hands of the Igoumen of the Monastery.

The Venerable one established a monastery on a mountain near the cave, where, according to Tradition, the Holy Apostle John the Theologian received a divine revelation and wrote his prophetic book in the years 68-69. The monastery was built on a rocky ledge, almost in the center of the island, and during the first three years, it had acquired the appearance of a fortress.

However, in the last years of his life, because of the raids of pirates, the Saint was forced to flee Patmos. He and his disciples went to the island of Euboea, where he reposed on March 16,1093. Shortly before his death, he gave his disciples instructions to bury him on the island of Patmos in the Monastery he founded. His disciples took his holy and incorrupt relics and transferred them to his own Monastery, where they remain for the sanctification of those who venerate them with faith.

Saint Christódoulos is also commemorated on October 21 (the transfer of his holy relics).

1 His name means "the servant of Christ."

Saint Ambrose the Confessor

Saint Ambrose the Confessor (in the world Besarion Khelaia) was born in 1861. He received his primary education at the theological school in Samegrelo and graduated from Tbilisi Seminary in 1885. He graduated and was ordained to the priesthood in the same year. Fr. Ambrose served as a priest in Sokhumi (in northwestern Georgia) for eight years, at the same time teaching the Georgian language in schools and directing the activity of various philanthropic societies. In 1896 he was widowed, and in 1897 he enrolled at the Kazan Theological Academy.

While in Kazan, Fr. Ambrose followed both the literary-cultural life of the city and the Georgian national independence movement with great interest. He researched the history of Georgia from primary sources and composed several essays based on his findings. His essay, entitled “The Struggle Between Christianity and Islam in Georgia,” was so compelling to one professor that he recommended that Fr. Ambrose continue exploring this theme and present his research for a master’s degree.

In 1901 Fr. Ambrose completed his studies at the Kazan Theological Academy, and in the same year he was tonsured a monk and returned to Georgia. Together with the greatest sons of his nation, he fought tirelessly for the autocephaly of the Georgian Orthodox Church. As a punishment for his uncompromising commitment to this goal, Fr. Ambrose was exiled to Russia in 1905.

Upon his return to Georgia, he was elevated to the rank of archimandrite and appointed abbot of Chelishi Monastery. Chelishi Monastery had at one time been a center for theological education in Georgia, but many years had passed since then and the monastery’s student body was rapidly shrinking. Before long it would be completely deserted. But with the blessing of Bishop Leonid of Imereti (later Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia), Saint Ambrose gathered a number of gifted young people to study at the seminary and began to instruct them in chanting and the reading of the Holy Gospel.

Saint Ambrose devoted much of his time and energy to finding and restoring the old manuscripts of Chelishi Monastery. Once, while passing through the monastery yard, he heard a muted sound coming from beneath the earth. He began to dig at that place and discovered an ancient copy of the Holy Gospels. It was the “Chelishi Gospel,” a famous Georgian relic from the 9th or 10th century.

Soon Saint Ambrose joined the Tbilisi Synodal Council and was enthroned as abbot of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Tbilisi. But in 1908 he was accused of conspiring in the murder of the exarch Nikon and deprived of the right to serve in the Church. The prosecutors exiled him to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Ryazan, where he spent over a year under strict guard. In 1910 Saint Ambrose was acquitted and again permitted to serve in the Church.

In 1917 Archimandrite Ambrose returned to Georgia and rejoined the struggle for an autocephalous Georgian Church. Within a few months the Church’s autocephaly was proclaimed. He was consecrated Metropolitan of Chqondidi, later to be transferred to the Tskum-Abkhazeti region. In 1921 Saint Ambrose was enthroned Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia.

The Soviet government began to persecute the Church not long after Saint Ambrose’s enthronement. Some 1,200 churches were plundered, converted for other purposes, or destroyed. A great number of clergy were arrested, exiled, and later shot to death.

On February 7, 1922, Catholicos-Patriarch Ambrose, the spiritual father and chief shepherd of his nation, sent a memorandum to participants in the Conference of Genoa1 in which he defended the rights of the Georgian Church and nation. Every word of his appeal was permeated with distress for the fate not only of his motherland but of the entire human race. Saint Ambrose assured his audience that a nation and government deprived of Christian virtue would have no future and pleaded for help in this time of misfortune.

The receipt of such a memorandum was unprecedented for the Bolshevik regime, and in response the officials had Saint Ambrose arrested. Nevertheless, he fearlessly criticized the government’s complaisance with acts of crime, injustice, and sacrilege.

In response to one of the Bolshevik interrogations, the patriarch asserted, “Confession of Faith is a spiritual necessity for every nation— persecution increases its necessity. Faith deepens, being contracted and accumulated, and it bursts out with new energy. So it was in the past, and so it will be in our country. Georgia is no exception to this universal law.”

Saint Ambrose spoke these remarkable last words to his persecutors: “My soul belongs to God, my heart to my motherland, and with my flesh you may do whatever you wish.” The court sentenced the Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia to seven years, nine months and twenty-eight days in prison.

At the end of 1924 Saint Ambrose and the other members of the Synodal Council were granted amnesty, but their grave experience had already taken its toll. The Georgian flock lost its faithful shepherd in 1927.

In 1995 the life of Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia Ambrose (Khelaia) was discussed at an expanded council of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church. In recognition of his great achievements on behalf of the Church and nation, Ambrose was canonized as “Saint Ambrose the Confessor.”

1 In 1922 representatives of thirty-four nations met in Genoa, Italy to discuss the economic reconstruction of Central and Eastern Europe and to improve relations between the Soviet Union and Western Europe.

Saint Demetrius the Devoted, King of Georgia

Saint Demetre the King, also called “the Devoted,” was a great-grandson of Holy Queen Tamar. God sent Saint Demetre many tribulations during his childhood, thus encouraging him in the Faith from an early age. Demetre was still an infant when the Mongols killed his mother, the pious Queen Gvantsa. His father, King Davit V (1258-1269), died when Demetre was just ten years old.

When he reached the age of twelve, the royal court sent him to the Mongol ordu (the military camp and headquarters of the Mongols). This particular camp of the Ilkhanid Mongols lay in Mughan of Azerbaijan and was ruled by Abaqa Khan (1265-1282). The Ilkhanid Mongols were descendents of Qubilay Khan’s brother Hulegu.

As the Georgians were under Mongol dominion, they asked Abaqa Khan to proclaim Demetre king, and their request was honored.

Filled with virtue, King Demetre ruled the nation in wisdom and kindness. At night he would go out in search of the poor, the infirm, and the orphaned to distribute his wealth to them. The king took advantage of comparatively peaceful periods to build and restore churches and monasteries and to strengthen fortifications.

Many of King Demetre’s lofty goals, however, were never realized, because the khan was constantly calling the Georgian soldiers to arms. A vast number of Georgia’s finest soldiers fought and perished in the khan’s battles. Soon Georgia was exhausted from battle and the sacrifice of her sons’ blood in the wars of foreign nations.

Internal strife began to tear at the Georgian people, and in desperation they began to pillage the lands and villages that belonged to their own Church.

During this difficult time, Demetre yielded to a temptation. Although already joined in a marriage of political convenience, he abducted Natela, the daughter of southern Georgia’s ruler, Beka Jakeli. She bore Demetre a son, whom they named Giorgi. He would later be honored with the title Giorgi V “the Brilliant” (1314-1346).

After the death of Abaqa Khan, his brother, Ahmad Tegüder (1282-1284), was proclaimed khan. In the second year of his reign, Ahmad’s brother, Qongurdam, plotted to overthrow him but failed. A short time later, Abaqa Khan’s son, Arghun (1284-1291), rose up against his uncle and seized the throne. Finally, Bugha Chingsang, the khan’s prime minister, organized a plot against Arghun. On January 17, 1289, Bugha Chingsang was executed along with his fellow conspirators.

Demetre, who had been on friendly terms with the khan, was now summoned to the khan’s ordu as a suspected member of the plot.

King Demetre immediately surmised the reason for this summons: “The khan is very angry and has called me to him,” he told his court. “I am certain he intends to do me evil, but my kingdom will lie defenseless before him if I do not go. How many Christians will die or become his slaves? How many churches will be laid to waste? Truly my life cannot be so valuable that I could live and bear this sin while many Christian souls are left to perish. It is my wish to go to the khan. God’s will be done: if I am killed, I will be certain that my country is saved!”

The royal court tried with all its might to convince Demetre that it was foolish to go, meet certain death, and leave the country without a ruler. Catholicos Abraam alone supported King Demetre’s decision and advised him, “If you sacrifice your own life for your nation, we, the bishops of this land, will bear your sins, and will pray to God that you be numbered among the holy martyrs. For the Lord Himself said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). And if it is good for a man to lay down his life for just one neighbor, how profitable is it for a man to die for the sake of many?”

Upon hearing these words, the king rejoiced exceedingly and began to prepare for his journey to the Mongol ordu. He took with him Catholicos Abraam, a certain priest Mose, his son Davit, and several members of his court. At the ordu the Mongols could find no fault in the young Georgian king, but they imprisoned him nevertheless. Then a group of Georgian faithful forced their way into the prison to see him and offered to help him escape. The king was deeply moved by their compassion, but nevertheless he told them, “I knew from the beginning the death I would suffer, and I offered my life for this nation. If I escape now, the nation will be destroyed. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36).”

The khan ordered his execution. Fully prepared to meet death, King Demetre prayed fervently, received the Holy Gifts, and gave up his soul to the Lord. Those present witnessed a divine miracle: the sun grew dark and an ominous gloom enshrouded the whole city.

The holy relics of the Royal Martyr Demetre were guarded until the catholicos and the priest Mose secretly retrieved the body and, with the help of a group of Tbilisi fishermen, returned the king to his homeland. He was buried in Mtskheta, in the burial vault of his forefathers at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral.