Daily Readings for Friday, March 24, 2023

4TH FRIDAY OF LENT

ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL

Forefeast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, Righteous Artemon, Bishop of Seleucia, Our Holy Father Theonas, Archbishop of Thessolonica, Zachariah the Recluse

ISAIAH 29:13-23

And the Lord said: "Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote; therefore, behold, I will again do marvelous things with this people, wonderful and marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid." Woe to those who hide deep from the LORD their counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, "Who sees us? Who knows us?" You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay; that the thing made should say of its maker, "He did not make me"; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be regarded as a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. For the ruthless shall come to nought and the scoffer cease, and all who watch to do evil shall be cut off, who by a word make a man out to be an offender, and lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate, and with an empty plea turn aside him who is in the right. Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: "Jacob shall no more be ashamed, no more shall his face grow pale. For when he sees his children, the work of my hands, in his midst, they will sanctify my name; they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.

GENESIS 12:1-7

Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions which they had gathered, and the persons that they had gotten in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

PROVERBS 14:15-26

The simple believes everything, but the prudent looks where he is going. A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool throws off restraint and is careless. A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient. The simple acquire folly, but the prudent are crowned with knowledge. The evil bow down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous. The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends. He who despises his neighbor is a sinner, but happy is he who is kind to the poor. Do they not err that devise evil? Those who devise good meet loyalty and faithfulness. In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to want. The crown of the wise is their wisdom, but folly is the garland of fools. A truthful witness saves lives, but one who utters lies is a betrayer. In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.

Forefeast of the Annunciation

The Feast of the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos is celebrated on one day March 25, exactly nine months before the Nativity of Christ. There is one day of Prefeast (March 24), followed by the Feast itself. On March 26, we celebrate the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel.

Because the Feast of the Annunciation falls during Great Lent, there is no Postfeast of the Feast.

Venerable Zachariah the Recluse

Saint Zachariah the Recluse of Egypt because of his concern for the poor and homeless was called “to the outcast.” In the printed Menaion he is known as “our Monastic Father Zachariah,” and so he has been identified erroneously with Saint Zachariah the Monk.

Saint Artemon, Bishop of Seleucia

Saint Artemon, Bishop of Seleucia, was born and lived in Seleucia of Pisidia (Asia Minor). He was pious and virtuous, therefore when the holy Apostle Paul (June 29) came to Seleucia, he established Saint Artemon as the first bishop of this city, since he was the most worthy. Saint Artemon wisely nourished the flock entrusted to him and won glory as a comforter of the poor and oppressed. Saint Artemon died in great old age.

[In the ancient Slavonic Lives of the Saints “Seleucian” was written as “Seleoukinian” or “Seleunian.” However, in several of the Greek memorials the bishop was also called Solunian (i.e., of Thessalonica). Saint Artemon (or Menignus) was listed in the MENAIA as Seleucian or Solunian. In the second half of the eighteenth century, these two names were mistakenly applied to various persons.]

Venerable Zachariah the Ascetic of the Kiev Caves

Saint Zachariah the Faster of the Caves was an ascetic in the Far Caves in the thirteenth-fourteenth centuries. He fasted so strictly that he ate nothing baked nor boiled, and he consumed only greens once a day at the setting of the sun. Demons trembled at the mere mention of his name.

Often the monk saw angels, with which he deserved to live in Heaven.

Martyr Stephen of Kazan

The Holy Martyr Stephen of Kazan was a Tatar. For more than twenty years, he suffered from a weakness of the legs. After the capture of Kazan by Ivan the Terrible (1552), he believed in Christ and received healing. The saint was baptized by Archpriest Menignus of the Moscow cathedral, who had brought a letter from Metropolitan Macarius to the Russian army.

After the Russian army withdrew from Kazan, the Tatars chopped the martyr Stephen into pieces, scattered his body and plundered his house, because he remained faithful to Christ.

Martyr Peter of Kazan

The Holy Martyr Peter of Kazan was a newly-baptized Tatar who suffered because he converted to Christianity from Islam.

After the Russian army left Kazan, the inhabitants dragged Peter from his home by force, and addressed him by his former Moslem name, hoping that he would deny Christ. But to all flattery and persuasion Saint Peter answered, “My father and mother is God Who is glorified in Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If you believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, then you are my family. I was named Peter in holy Baptism, and I will not answer to the name by which you address me.”

Seeing that he would remain steadfast in the Faith, his family had him tortured. He endured fierce torments, but he did not cease to confess the Name of Christ, saying, “I am a Christian.” The holy martyr was buried in Kazan on the site where the church of the Resurrection of Christ later stood, at the Zhitny-Grain marketplace.

For the Lives of the holy martyrs Stephen and Peter of Kazan see: “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate,” 1977, No. 9, p. 79-80.

Icon of the Mother of God of “the Uncut Mount” or “Clouded Mountain”

About 250-300 years ago1 this icon was in one of the men’s monasteries of Tver and the Superior gave it to Cosmas Volchaninov in gratitude for his fine work in the Monastery church. The Icon was passed down from generation to generation, but an irreverent grandson of Cosmas took the darkened Icon and put it in the attic. His daughter-in-law had to endure many insults from her husband and his relatives. In desperation, she decided to commit suicide in a deserted bath-house. On her way there a monk appeared to her and said, “Where are you going, you unhappy woman? Go back, pray to the Theotokos of "The Clouded Mount," and you will live well, and in peace.”

The distressed woman returned home and revealed everything to her family, not concealing what she had intended to do. They searched for the monk, but they did not find him. No one saw him but her. This occurred on the eve of the Feast of the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos.

They found the Icon in the attic, cleaned off the dirt, and put it downstairs, in a place of honor. In the evening, the parish priest served an All-night Vigil before the Icon. From that time, a Vigil was served in the house every year on this day.

For more than 150 years the Icon remained in the Volchaninov family. Katherine, the daughter of Basil, the last of the Volchaninov line, married George Ivanovich Konyaev, taking the Icon of the Mother of God with her as a precious inheritance. Molebens and All-night Vigils were served in the Konyaev house on March 24 and November 7 (perhaps this was the day when the Icon was brought from the monastery to the house of Cosmas Volchaninov).

In 1863, near a cemetery church of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, it was decided to build a chapel in honor of Saint Tikhon and Saint Makarios of Kalyazin (March 17). The owner of the Icon, George Konyaev (who died in 1868 at the age of 97) wanted to donate the Icon of the Mother of God to the church. He asked the clergy to build another chapel for the wonderworking Icon of the Mother of God of "The Clouded Mountain.”

He also said, “I feel the very best place for it is in the temple of the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God, since formerly the place on which the church was built was called a Mount, because it was the highest place in the city. The inhabitants took their possessions to the Mount and saved themselves from ruin during a flood. Let the 'Clouded Mountain' Icon remain here on the Mount with your blessing, and may all who are buried here be protected by her mercy.” On July 15, 1866 the Icon was transferred into the new chapel, which was consecrated by Bishop Anthony of Staritsk the following day.

For three centuries before the Revolution, the "Clouded Mount" Icon of the Mother of God repeatedly worked several miracles. She was taken into the homes of pious citizens, and children were brought to her to be healed. Copies of the Icon were made, which also turned out to be miraculous.

According to the recollection of Father John Bogoslovsky, from the village of Buylovo, his mother brought him to the wonderworking Icon several times when he was a child. He had severe pain in his eyes, and every time he was anointed with oil from a lamp hanging before her Icon, he obtained relief, then finally the disease left him. Grateful worshippers adorned the Icon with a a silver riza, and later the riza was gilded. Unfortunately, the Icon disappeared after the Smolensk church was closed.

The memory of the "Clouded Mount" Icon did not fade, however. In 1993, with the blessing of Archbishop Victor of Tver and Kashin, a copy of the "Clouded Mount" Icon was painted, and veneration of the Icon resumed. The "Clouded Mount" Icon of the Mother of God is commemorated three times a year: on July 16, in honor of the consecration of the altar; on March 24 in honor of the Icon's first miracle; and on November 7 according to ancient custom. Now there is a venerated copy of the Icon in the Ascension Cathedral at Tver.

In the Icon, the Most Holy Theotokos is depicted standing on a semicircular elevation. In her right hand is a small mountain, the "stone cut out of a mountain without hands" (Daniel 2:44), on top of which a domed church with crosses. On her left arm the Divine Child blesses with His right hand. There is a crown on the head of the Mother of God.

We pray before this Icon when faced with desperate situations; when it seems that everyone around us opposes us; and for the correction of errant or fallen relatives.


1 This account is based on Eugene Poselyanin's book The Mother of God (published in 1914), and other sources.