4TH THURSDAY OF LENT
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
The Holy Righteous Martyr Nicon and His 199 Disciples, Anatolios & Protoleon the Martyrs converted by the martyrdom of St. George, Luke the New Martyr of Mytilene
Thus says the LORD, you scoffers, who rule this people in Jerusalem! Because you have said, "We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have an agreement; when the overwhelming scourge passes through it will not come to us; for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter"; therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'He who believes will not be in haste.' And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter." Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through you will be beaten down by it. As often as it passes through it will take you; for morning by morning it will pass through, by day and by night; and it will be sheer terror to understand the message. For the bed is too short to stretch oneself on it, and the covering too narrow to wrap oneself in it. For the LORD will rise up as on Mount Perazim, he will be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon; to do his deed – strange is his deed! and to work his work – alien is his work! Now therefore do not scoff, lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard a decree of destruction from the Lord GOD of hosts upon the whole land.
These are the families of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations; and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood. Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul; but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Misfortune pursues sinners, but prosperity rewards the righteous. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous. The fallow ground of the poor yields much food, but it is swept away through injustice. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want. Wisdom builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. He who walks in uprightness fears the LORD, but he who is devious in his ways despises him. The talk of a fool is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them. Where there are no oxen, there is no grain; but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies. A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
Martyr Nikon and 199 disciples with him in Sicily
The Monk Martyr Nikon was born at Neapolis (Naples). His father was a pagan, and his mother a Christian. He was not baptized, but his mother secretly instructed him in the tenets of Christianity. Nikon was still a pagan when he reached adulthood. He served as a soldier, and showed unusual courage and strength.
Once, Nikon and his military company were surrounded by enemies. In deadly peril, he remembered the Christian precepts of his mother and, signing himself with the Sign of the Cross, he prayed to God, vowing to be baptized if he were saved. Filled with unusual strength, he killed many of the enemy, and put the rest to flight.
He managed to return home, giving thanks to God for preserving his life. With the blessing of his mother, he set off in search of a priest. This was no easy thing to do in a time of persecution. Saint Nikon took a ship to the island of Chios. He went up on a high mountain and spent eight days in fasting and prayer, entreating the Lord to help him.
An angel of God appeared to Saint Nikon in a dream, showing him the way. Saint Nikon went to Mount Ganos, where many monks were hidden, headed by Theodosius the Bishop of Cyzicus. Saint Nikon received from the bishop both the mystery of Baptism and the angelic schema (i.e., monastic tonsure). Living in the cave church, Saint Nikon became an example for all the brethren.
When Saint Nikon had lived on the mountain for three years, an angel revealed to the bishop that Saint Nikon should be consecrated bishop, and should move to the province of Sicily with all the monks. Bishop Theodosius obeyed the angel, and then died after he had entrusted the 190 monks to Saint Nikon. After he buried Bishop Theodosius, Saint Nikon sailed to Sicily with the brethren, and so was saved from approaching barbarians.
By God’s grace, Saint Nikon came to his native city Neapolis. He found his mother still alive, and he remained with her for the final day of her life. His mother collapsed on his chest with tears of joy and kissed him. Making a prostration to the ground, she said, “I give thanks to You, O Lord, for You have permitted me to see my son as a monk, and as a bishop. Now, my Lord, hear Your servant, and receive my soul.” When she had finished this prayer, the righteous woman died. Those present glorified God and buried her with psalmody.
Rumors of Saint Nikon’s arrival spread through the city, and ten soldiers, his former companions, came to see him. After conversing with the saint they believed and were baptized, and went with him to Sicily. Having arrived on the island, Saint Nikon settled with the monks in a desolate area, called Gigia, near the river Asinum.
Many years passed, and there was another persecution against Christians. Quintilian, the governor of Sicily, was informed that Bishop Nikon was living nearby with many monks. All 199 monks were seized and beheaded, but they left Saint Nikon alive in order to torture him.
They burned him with fire, yet he remained unharmed. They tied him to the tails of wild horses to be dragged over the ground, but the horses would not budge from the spot. They cut out the saint’s tongue, threw him off a high cliff, and finally beheaded him. The body of the hieromartyr Nikon was left in a field to be eaten by wild beasts and birds.
A certain shepherd, possessed by an evil spirit, went to that place, and finding the body of the saint, he immediately fell to the ground on his face. The unclean spirit, vanquished by the power of the saint, had thrown him to the ground and gone out from him with a loud shriek: “Woe is me, woe is me, where can I flee from Nikon?”
The healed shepherd related this to the people. The bishop of the city of Messina also learned of this, then he and his clergy buried the bodies of Saint Nikon and his disciples.
Venerable Nikon, Abbot of the Kiev Far Caves
Saint Nikon of the Kiev Caves was the first disciple and fellow-ascetic of Saint Anthony (July 10), the founder of the Kiev Caves monastery, to which he came as a priest. At the monastery he tonsured all the new monks, and among their number was Saint Theodosius of the Caves (May 3 and August 14).
For tonsuring the favorites of the Great Prince Izyaslav, Saints Barlaam (November 19) and Ephraim (January 28 ), Saint Nikon brought the wrath of the prince down upon himself, but he refused to force the new monks to leave the monastery. The princess calmed Izyaslav, and he left Saint Nikon in peace.
When the number of brethren in the monastery had increased, Saint Nikon desired to go into seclusion and live as a hesychast. He went to the Tmutarakan peninsula (on the eastern banks of the Kerchensk straits) and settled in an unpopulated spot. When news of his holy life and spiritual gifts spread throughout the region, many gathered about him, wishing to follow his example. Thus a monastery and a church were founded in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos.
When he returned to the Kiev Caves monastery, Saint Nikon was obedient to Saint Theodosius as his spiritual Father. According to Saint Nestor the Chronicler (October 27), when Saint Theodosius had to go somewhere, he entrusted all the brethren to the care of Saint Nikon. Sometimes he asked Saint Nikon to offer instruction to the brethren in place of himself. Often, when Saint Nikon was binding books, Saint Theodosius sat near him and spun the thread for the binding.
When Prince Svyatoslav drove out his brother Izyaslav from Kiev, Saint Nikon returned to the monastery he founded. He returned under the igumen Stephen. When Saint Stephen (April 27) left the Kiev Caves monastery, Saint Nikon was chosen as igumen of the monastery. He toiled much to adorn his monastery with spiritual books and icons. He died at a great old age (+ 1088) and was buried in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony.
Martyr Philetus the Senator, his wife and sons, and those with them in Illyria
Saint Philetus was a dignitary at the court of the emperor Hadrian (117-138), a persecutor of Christians. For openly confessing his faith in Christ the Savior, Saint Philetus was brought to trial with his wife Saint Lydia and their sons Macedonius and Theoprepius. By Hadrian’s order, Saint Philetus was sent with his family to Illyria to the military governor Amphilochius to be tortured.
Amphilochius gave orders to suspend them from a tree and to torture them with knives. After this, they were locked up in prison with the jailer Cronides, who believed in Christ and was also thrown in jail. An angel came to them by night and eased their sufferings.
On the following day the martyrs were plunged into a cauldron of boiling oil, but the oil cooled instantly, and the saints remained unharmed. The military governor Amphilochius was so astonished at this miracle that he himself believed in Christ and went into the boiling oil saying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, help me!” and he remained unharmed. The tortures were repeated when the emperor Hadrian came to Illyria. They threw the holy martyrs into the boiling oil again and again, but by the power of God they remained alive.
The humiliated emperor returned to Rome, and the holy martyrs gave thanks to God, then they surrendered their holy souls to Him.
Righteous Basil of Mangazea in Siberia
Righteous Basil of Mangazea: Saint Basil was born in the town of Yaroslavl around 1587. His father was a merchant, but the family was very poor. As a child, Basil spent much of his time in church, praying fervently and participating in the divine services.
When he was twelve, the boy set out to earn his living. After a difficult journey through wild forests, he came to the Russian village of Mangazea in Siberia on the River Taz. This was an area inhabited by Mongols and indigenous peoples of Siberia.
After stopping to pray in the village church, Saint Basil found a job with a local merchant. The merchant was a person of low moral character and did not believe in God, so while he appreciated Basil’s work, he did not care for the boy’s religious inclinations. Soon the cruel merchant came to hate his clerk and began to mistreat him.
During the Matins of Pascha, thieves robbed the merchant’s shop. The merchant discovered the theft and went to the governor, accusing Basil of being one of the thieves. So great was the merchant’s hatred of Basil that he falsely accused the young man. The governor did not even bother to investigate the charges, but had Basil arrested and tortured to make him admit his guilt. In spite of unbearable tortures, the saint kept saying, “I am innocent.”
Enraged by Basil’s endurance and meekness, the merchant struck him in the head with a ring of keys. Saint Basil fell to the floor and surrendered his soul to God. The governor ordered that the saint’s body be placed in a coffin and buried in a swamp.
After several years, the servants who disposed of the body began to speak about the child’s murder. Soon all the residents of Mangazea knew that the saint’s relics were in the swamp. Because of many signs that took place, people began to address prayers to Saint Basil. Forty-two years after the unjust murder of the saint, his coffin was removed from the swamp and his holy relics were found to be incorrupt. A chapel was built over his grave, and in 1670 the relics were placed in the church of Holy Trinity Monastery near Turakhanov.
In 1719 the holy Metropolitan Philotheus of Siberia (May 31) sent a carved reliquary to the monastery. Many miracles took place there, and Saint Basil helped Metropolitan Philotheus on many occasions
A new stone church was built at Holy Trinity Monastery in 1787, and the relics were transferred there.
In iconography, Saint Basil is portrayed as a young man with light brown hair, bare-footed and wearing only a shirt. He is also depicted on the Abaletsk Icon “Of the Sign” (July 20, November 27).
Monastic Martyr Luke of Saint Anne’s Skete on Mount Athos and Odrin
No information available at this time.
Venerable Sergius (Srebryansky), the New Confessor of Tver
No information available at this time.