Monthly Archives: April 2023
Orthros and Divine Liturgy – Sun 4/30/23
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Daily Readings for Sunday, April 30, 2023
SUNDAY OF THE MYRRH-BEARING WOMEN
Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, James the Apostle and brother of St. John the Theologian, Argyra the New Martyr, Clement the Hymnographer, Erconwald, Bishop of London
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 6:1-7
In those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochoros, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaos, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
MARK 15:43-47; 16:1-8
At that time, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. And he bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud, and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week they went to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they were saying to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?" And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back; for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, "Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you." And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Sunday of the Holy Myrrhbearing Women with the Noble Joseph
The Myrrh-bearing women are those women who followed the Lord, along with His Mother. They remained with her during the time of the saving Passion, and anointed the Lord's body with myrrh. Joseph and Νikόdēmos asked for and received the Lord's body from Pilate. They took it down from the Cross, wrapped it in linen cloths and spices, then they laid it in a tomb, and then they placed a great stone over the entrance of the tomb.
According to the Evangelist Matthew (27:57-61) Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joses (Mark 15:40) were there sitting opposite the sepulchre, and they saw where He had been laid. This other Mary was the Mother of God. Not only were these present, but also many other women, as Saint Luke says (24:10).
Today the Church honors Saints Mary Magdalene (July 22), Mary the wife of Cleopas (May 23), Joanna (June 27), Salome, mother of the sons of Zebedee (August 3), Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus (June 4), and the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, who was the stepmother of her husband Joseph’s sons James (October 23) and Joses (October 30). Today we also remember Saint Joseph of Arimathea (July 31), who was a secret disciple (John 19:38), and Saint Νikόdēmos, who was a disciple by night (John 3:3; 19:38).
The holy right-believing Queen Tamara of Georgia is honored twice during the year: on May 1, the day of her repose, and also on the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women.
On this day the Church also remembers All Saints of Thessalonica, Saint Seraphim Bishop of Phanar (December 4,1610), the New Martyr Elias Ardunis (January 31, 1686), and the New Martyr Demetrios of the Peloponnesos (April 13, 1803).
Apostle James the Brother of Saint John the Theologian
The Holy Apostle James, the son of Zebedee, was the brother of Saint John the Theologian, and one of the Twelve Apostles. He and his brother, Saint John, were called to be Apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who called them the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). It was this James, with John and Peter, who witnessed the Raising of the Daughter of Jairus, the Lord’s Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Saint James, after the Descent of the Holy Spirit, preached in Spain and in other lands, and then he returned to Jerusalem. He openly and boldly preached Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, and he denounced the Pharisees and the Scribes with the words of Holy Scripture, reproaching them for their malice of heart and unbelief.
The Jews could not prevail against Saint James, and so they hired the sorcerer Hermogenes to dispute with the apostle and refute his arguments that Christ was the promised Messiah Who had come into the world. The sorcerer sent to the apostle his pupil Philip, who was converted to belief in Christ. Then Hermogenes himself became persuaded of the power of God, he burned his books of magic, accepted holy Baptism and became a true follower of Christ.
The Jews persuaded Herod Agrippa (40-44) to arrest the Apostle James and sentence him to death (Acts 12:1-2). Eusebius provides some of the details of the saint’s execution (CHURCH HISTORY II, 9). Saint James calmly heard the death sentence and continued to bear witness to Christ. One of the false witnesses, whose name was Josiah, was struck by the courage of Saint James. He came to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. When they led the apostle forth to execution, Josiah fell at his feet, repenting of his sin and asking forgiveness. The apostle embraced him, gave him a kiss and said, “Peace and forgiveness to you.” Then Josiah confessed his faith in Christ before everyone, and he was beheaded with Saint James in the year 44 at Jerusalem.
Saint James was the first of the Apostles to die as a martyr.
Uncovering of the relics of Saint Nikḗtas, Bishop of Novgorod
Saint Nikḗtas the former Recluse of the Kiev Caves fell asleep in the Lord in 1109, after serving as Bishop of Novgorod for thirteen years.
Bishop Nikḗtas was glorified as a saint during the reign of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich, and his holy relics, dressed in full vestments, were uncovered on April 30, 1558. That day was marked by the healing of many people. His relics now rest in the cathedral of the holy Apostle Philip in Novgorod.
Saint Nikḗtas of Novgorod is also commemorated on January 31, the day of his repose, and on May 14.
Saint Donatus, Bishop of Euroea in Epirus
Saint Donatus lived during the reign of the holy Emperor Theodosius the Great (379-397) and was bishop of the city of Euroea (in Albania). Not far from this city, in the vicinity of Soreia, was a brackish spring of water. When the saint learned of this, he went with clergy to the spring and cast out a monstrous serpent, which died. The saint prayed, he blessed the spring and drank the water without harm. Seeing this miracle, the people glorified God.
Another time, Saint Donatus prayed and brought forth water from a dry and rocky place, and during a drought he entreated the Lord to send rain to the parched land.
The daughter of the holy Emperor Theodosius fell terribly ill and was afflicted by an unclean spirit. Saint Donatus came to the palace, and as soon as he arrived the devil left and the sick woman was healed.
A certain man, shortly before his death, repaid a loan to a money-lender. The creditor tried to extort the money a second time from the dead man’s widow. The saint resurrected the dead man, who told where and when the loan had been repaid. After obtaining a receipt from the creditor, the man fell asleep in the Lord.
Saint Donatus reposed in peace about the year 387.
Uncovering of the relics of Saint Basil, Bishop of Amasea
The Hieromartyr Basil, Bishop of Amasea, lived at the beginning of the fourth century in the Pontine city of Amasea. He encouraged and comforted the Christians suffering persecution by the pagans. During this time the Eastern part of the Roman Empire was ruled by Licinius (311-324), the brother-in-law of the holy emperor Constantine the Great (May 21). Licinius deceitfully signed Saint Constantine’s Edict of Milan (313), which granted religious toleration to Christians, but he hated them and continued to persecute them.
Martyr Maximus of Ephesus
The Holy Martyr Maximus suffered for his faith in Christ, and was run through with a sword.
Saint Ignatius Brianchaninov, Bishop of the Caucasus and Stavropol
The future hierarch, Saint Ignatius, was chosen for the service of God even before his birth on February 6, 1807. His father Alexander S. Brianchaninov was a wealthy provincial landowner in the large village of Pokrovskoe in Vologda Gubernia. The Saint's birth was the result of his devout mother's fervent prayers, for she had no children until then. His mother Sophia (1786–1832) had been barren for a long time, and she visited the holy places in the area, asking God to give her a child. Finally, her prayers were answered, and she gave birth to a son. In Holy Baptism he received the name Demetrios, in honor of Saint Demetrios of Priluki (February 11).
Young Demetrios spent his childhood at Pokrovskoe in the natural surroundings of rural life. As he matured, he became quiet and reflective. He loved going to church and often attended the Services. In his spare time, the boy read spiritual books and he prayed. After the Holy Gospels, his favorite book was The Spiritual School, a very old collection of the Lives and sayings of the Saints in five volumes. Although he was drawn to the monastic life, his parents did not approve of this. Besides, it was quite unusual for a nobleman to follow such a path. Alexander Brianchaninov was from an old and respected family, and he was a worldly individual with ties to the palace. He planned a military career for his son.
When Demetrios reached the age of fifteen, his father entered him in the Imperial School of Military Engineers at St. Petersburg. He did so well in his entrance exam that he even attracted the notice of the Director of the school, Grand Duke Nicholas Pavlovich, the future Tsar Nicholas I. The Prince invited the young man to the palace, and introduced him to his wife, who suggested that he be given a stipend.
At the school he won the affection of the professors and administrators because of his excellent grades and exemplary conduct. Demetrios was even received at the home of Alexei N. Olenin, who was then President of the Academy of the Arts, Archaeology, and History, where he became acquainted with all the prominent literary figures of the day: K.N. Batyushkov, N.I. Gnedich, I.A. Krylov, and also A.S. Pushkin. These gatherings contributed to the development of the young man's literary talents.
However, the clamor of the capital and its worldly pleasures could not extinguish the fire in his soul which had been kindled by divine grace. His spirit was troubled by many thoughts: his mind was filled with doubts, and his heart seethed with passions. In this state Demetrios took refuge in prayer. He prayed constantly day and night. At the same time, he was no longer content to receive Holy Communion only once a year, as was the custom at school. Desiring to partake of this spiritual food (John 6:48-58), Demetrios went to confess to the school's priest, who was surprised by such a request. Not only did he refuse to permit Demetrios to receive Communion more frequently, he also reported what he heard in Confession to the school authorities, which was inexcusable.
Despite his excellent record, Demetrios grew more and more depressed at the thought of a career as a military officer, and he still wanted to become a monk. He and his friend Nicholas Chikhachev († January 16, 1873) decided to visit the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg for Confession. Father Athanasios, the Father Confessor, was more sympathetic than the school's priest had been, and did not discourage them when they expressed a desire to become monks.
But there were still many obstacles and heavy trials which had to be overcome by the young ascetics before they could attain their goal, which was to take refuge behind the walls of a holy monastery. Of course, the greatest opposition to their plans came from their own relatives. When the elder Mr. Brianchaninov found out about his son's life and activities, he wrote at once to the Director of the school, Count Sivers, asking him to keep a very close watch over his son. He also wrote to Metropolitan Seraphim of St. Petersburg saying that the Father Confessor of the Lavra, Father Athanasios, was encouraging his son to become a monk. The Metropolitan, fearing trouble from the powerful people of this world, reprimanded Father Athanasios severely and forbade him to receive the two young men for Confession. This was very difficult for Demetrios, so he decided to discuss the matter with the Metropolitan in person. After seeing the young man, and listening to his sincere explanation, the Metropolitan blessed him to visit the Lavra and his Father Confessor once again. Meanwhile, the young man's decision to forsake the world came to a definite resolution, and he decided to follow the call of his inner voice. The main reason why Demetrios decided to fulfill his desire right away was his acquaintance with Elder Leonid of Optina, who was distinguished by his divine wisdom, holiness of life, and experience in the ascetical life of monasticism. After their first conversation, Demetrios told his friend Michael Chikhachev (Чихачев), "Father Leonid has captured my heart. Now it is definite. I am asking to be discharged, and I am going to follow the Elder."
Before Demetrios was able to find a quiet abode within the walls of the monastery, however, he had to endure some great trials; first with his family, and secondly with the powerful people of this world. Unable to obtain that which he desired, the grieving young man left home for the capital. There, another storm awaited him. As soon as he finished his last exam, he petitioned for a discharge from his military service (which he had not yet begun). When Tsar Nicholas I learned of this, he asked his brother, the Grand Duke, to talk the young man out of this. All of the powerful prince's kindnesses, discussions, and even threats, were in vain. The young man remained inflexible. Then the Grand Duke informed Demetrios that the Tsar had refused to release him, and that he has been assigned to Dinaburg Fortress. Bitterly, the young officer was forced to submit, but when he arrived at Dinaburg he became severely ill. When he visited the fortress in 1827, the Grand Duke could see for himself that Demetrios was unable to continue his military service, and he gave him his much-desired discharge. Thus, the secular life of young Demetrios came to an end.
After obtaining his discharge, Demetrios traveled via St. Petersburg to Svirsk Monastery and to Elder Leonid (who was living there at the time because he was persecuted at Valaam by the Superior, Father Innocent), in order to submit himself to this experienced spiritual guide and begin his monastic life. Arriving at St. Petersburg, and dressed as a peasant, Demetrios stayed at Chikhachev's apartment. His friend Michael also requested a discharge, but this was not granted. So he was obliged to remain in the service for a while longer. Demetrios left for Svirsk Monastery alone, where he began his asceticism of obedience. In the meantime, his angry parents cut off all ties with him, denying him any material assistance.
While he was a novice, the future instructor of monks was distinguished by his complete obedience and deep humility. Assigned to work in the kitchen, he obeyed all of the cook's orders with humility, (the cook happened to be his father's former servant), and the entire brotherhood began to respect and to love the young ascetic. Elder Leonid was the young novice's Spiritual Father. Demetrios, by his singular obedience, cemented his relationship with his instructor. This relationship resembled that of the ancient novices with their Elders. Demetrios did not take a single step without the knowledge of his Spiritual Father, and every day he revealed all his innermost thoughts and desires to him. In this case, the Elder was like a real instructor in the spirit of true monasticism, as exemplified by the ancient ascetics of early Christianity.
The novice lived this kind of life at Svirsk Monastery, and also at Ploschansk Hermitage, where his instructor was forced to transfer after a year with his disciples. Here Demetrios was comforted by the arrival of his close friend Michael Chikhachev. Reunited in the tranquil seclusion of the monastery, the friends began to practice the asceticism of piety, offering help to one another. They were blessed to do so by Father Leonid. However, the young ascetics were unable to remain for long at the quiet abode of Ploschansk Hermitage. Because of persecution by the Superior, Father Leonid was forced to move to Optina. His disciples were also ordered to leave and were told to go wherever they pleased.
Grief-stricken, because they admired the strict and quiet life of the two novices, the other monks watched them depart. The monks gave them five rubles, which they had collected for their travel expenses. First, the two friends went to White Bluff Hermitage but they were not accepted there. Then they went to Optina to be with their Elder, but Abbot Moses did not want to admit them for a long time. At long last, because of their constant pleading, he was compelled to accept these two brilliant former officers who had rejected all worldly vanity for the sake of Christ.
Their position at Optina was difficult. The Superior regarded them sternly, and the monks did not trust them. The coarse food and the climate both affected Demetrios, and he became very ill. Chikachev took care of his friend, but soon he too was stricken with a debilitating fever. In the meantime, Demetrios's parents softened their opinion of their son. His mother became ill, and this illness aroused her maternal instincts, and she wanted to see her son again. Even the stern father seemed to mellow somewhat, and he invited his son and his friend to come and visit. Demetrios and Michael went there right away, but their reunion was far from pleasant. His mother was feeling better, but as her illness abated, his father's tender feelings also disappeared, and Demetrios got a very cold reception. Alexander Brianchaninov still hoped to have his son pursue a brilliant career, so he tried to force him to abandon the monastic life and to enter into civil or military service. Therefore, the young man began to feel burdened by life in the world.
At the beginning of 1830, he and Michael entered the St. Cyril of White Lake Monastery. The Superior at that time was Father Arkadios, a saintly man, but simple of heart. Seeing true monks in these newcomers, he welcomed them with love. Almost as soon as the two friends began their life in that monastery, Demetrios was stricken once again with a terrible fever. The monastery was located on an island in a large lake, and the dampness made it impossible for him to remain there any longer. Chikhachev also became ill. Then Demetrios returned to Vologda in order to recover his health, while Chikhachev went back to his home in Pskov Province.
It was difficult for the young ascetic to live in the world once more after he had rejected it. His only happiness then were his talks with Bishop Stephen of Vologda, who came to love the young novice, and often invited him to visit. As soon as Demetrios was well, he blessed him to live in the Semigorod Hermitage of the Dormition. Here Demetrios devoted himself to his usual works of meditation and prayer. Meanwhile, his strict father kept insisting that he enter the service again. He did not leave his son in peace even when he transferred from Semigorod Hermitage to the far-off and secluded Glushitsa Sosnovetsk Monastery. For this reason Demetrios pleaded with Bishop Stephen to tonsure him as soon as possible. Since he was very familiar with Demetrios's spiritual state, he decided to do so. He obtained special permission from the Holy Synod, then summoned Demetrios to Vologda and ordered him to prepare himself for tonsure, but to conceal this from his relatives.
On June 20, 1831, the desire of his heart was fulfilled. He was tonsured by Bishop Stephen and renamed Ignatius, in honor of the Hieromartyr Ignatius the God-Bearer (December 20 & January 29). When his relatives arrived at the cathedral that day they were greatly astonished by this new ceremony which they had never seen before. They were even more upset by their son's action, which shattered all of their fondest hopes and plans. The newly-tonsured monk was not disturbed by this, however. He was ordained as a deacon on July 5 and then to the priesthood on July 20. In that rank he was appointed as Superior of the Grigoriev Pel'shemsk Lopotov Monastery.
Lopotov Monastery was almost completely in ruins. Everything had to be restored or rebuilt. The new Superior began his work with zeal, and soon the Lopotov Monastery became unrecognizable. Not only was it restored outwardly, but inwardly as well, in its spiritual life. This was all due to the new Superior. Father Ignatius did not spare himself in laboring for the good of the monastery. For
example, all during the winter of 1832 he lived in the poor, small cabin of the church watchman.
These labors of the young Hieromonk were done for the glory of God, but he was not left without his joys. His first joy was meeting
his dear friend Chikhachev, who also came to live at the Lopotov Monastery, and was the Superior's energetic helper. His second joy
was his peaceful reconciliation with his parents. He began to visit them again and, under his influence, they became more favorably
disposed toward him. His mother especially was changed, and thanked God for making her first-born His servant. She reposed soon after this, at the age of forty-six, and received Holy Communion for the last time from her son. He bore his grief with true Christian fortitude, and tried to overcome his sorrow with extra work in rebuilding the monastery. The young Hieromonk's efforts were noticed by Bishop Stephen, who elevated him to the rank of Igoumen in January of 1833.
His labors could not but affect his weakened and sickly body, especially since the Lopotov Monastery was in a swamp. All this made him very ill again until his friend Chikhachev tried to talk him into transferring elsewhere. Thanks to the help of Countess Anna Orlova-Chesmenskaya, Father Ignatius's condition was closely observed by the great Moscow hierarch Metropolitan Philaret, who offered him to be the Superior of the St. Nicholas-Ugreshsky Monastery in his diocese.
However, God's Providence was preparing Father Ignatius for much broader activities. Tsar Nicholas I remembered his beloved student and ordered that he not be sent to Moscow, but to St. Petersburg so that he could see him in person. The humble Igoumen set out for the northern capital, where he was presented to the Tsar, who was pleased to see him. After a few brief explanations, the Tsar said, "I love you as I did before! You still owe me for your education, which I gave you because of my love for you. You did not want to serve me in the place I offered you, and chose your own path. So, it is on that path that you must repay your debt to me. I am giving you the Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage near St. Petersburg. I want you to live there and make it a monastery which will serve as an example for the other monasteries in the capital."
Tsar Nicholas then presented him to his wife, who was kind to her former student, and asked him to bless her children. The Tsar then ordered the Secretary of the Synod to come, and told him of his wishes. Igoumen Ignatius was appointed as Superior of St. Sergius Hermitage, and was raised to the rank of Archimandrite. The new Superior assumed his duties at the Hermitage on January 5, 1834. Here, Father Ignatius encountered new labors and cares. Until that time, St. Sergius Hermitage had been ruled by vicar bishops, which, of course, was not good for the monastery. Its proximity to the city was also harmful for it. All the buildings in the Hermitage were in need of repair, and even major renovations. There were only thirty monks, and all of them fell far short of the monastic ideal. Moral laxity reigned here in full force. It was difficult for the sickly Superior, who was frequently ill, to perform his duties, which required constant care, bother, and work. It was especially difficult to combat the depravity of his monks. He said himself, "Jealousy, evil talk, and slander rose up against me and they hissed at me. I saw enemies who breathed unutterable malice, and who thirsted for my destruction." He overcame all of this with his iron will, which was hidden in the humble Superior's weakened body.
It was not even a year before St. Sergius Hermitage was given new life and beautified. Constant work, restoring churches, a new living quarters was built, and also a new trapeza, bakery, and shops. In the midst of all this construction, the Tsar and his family unexpectedly visited the monastery. When the Tsar arrived and entered the church at 6:00 P.M., he asked the first monk he met, "Is Father Archimandrite at home? Tell him that his old friend wishes to see him."
When the Superior hastened to receive the exalted guests, the Tsar greeted him and asked about his work. He inspected the construction sites, praised the work of Father Ignatius, and promised to send money from the Treasury.
Beautifying his monastery on the outside, with the Tsar's help, the zealous Superior also brought to it a sense of inner well-being. Everything was orderly now, the Divine Services were solemn and grand, and he formed a beautiful choir. He cared even more, however, for the spiritual nurture of the monks in his monastery. He examined the personal life of each monk, instructing them to use their free time in a way that would benefit their souls: in prayer, fasting, reading spiritual books, and manual labor. In a word, he tried to instill the spirit of true monasticism in them. His great experience, his unflagging zeal, and his knowledge of the human heart, all these produced such results that Father Ignatius soon attained his goals. Indeed, he had fulfilled the Tsar's wishes by making St. Sergius Hermitage a model for other monasteries.
In caring for the perfecting of others, Father Archimandrite himself progressed higher and higher toward spiritual perfection. He taught not only by word, but also by his own example. His fondest wish was that he himself might attain the spiritual beauty of the ancient monks of the Thebaïd and of Egypt, whose lofty example had captivated him from his childhood. In order to come closer to his ideal, he did not spare his health or his strength in his ascetical struggles. These caused him to become ill, which obliged him to request retirement from his position.
Instead of retirement, however, Archimandrite Ignatius received some time off in order to regain his health at Kostroma's St. Nicholas Babaev Monastery on the Volga River. After living there for about eleven months in complete seclusion, he returned once more to his duties as Superior of the St. Sergius Hermitage. Yet the thought of living as a hermit had never left Father Ignatius. After losing his benefactor, Tsar Nicholas, he decided to devote himself once again to a secluded life in a Skete. He even began making arrangements with Father Moses of Optina Hermitage to let him have a cell in the Skete. Then suddenly, he was elected as Bishop of Stavropol and the Caucasus.
Father Ignatius was consecrated as Bishop of the Caucasus on October 27, 1857 in the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The new hierarch bade farewell to everyone in November, and put his financial affairs in order. He left for his new assignment, and arrived early in 1858. On the way, he was nearly killed in a severe blizzard. When he arrived at Stavropol, he began to carry out his new duties with zeal. His diocese required more from him than most others, since it had been established only a short time before. The bishop's residence had hardly anything on which to live. The clergy were very poor, and their relationship with their flocks was far from what it should be. Schools had to be reorganized, and the churches and the Divine Services needed improvement.
After seeing to the material means of existence in the bishop's residence, Saint Ignatius turned most of his attention to celebrating the Divine Services according to the Church Typikon, and to restoring a proper relationship between the clergy and the people. In his own dealings with the clergy, he was kind, simple, and straightforward. He was always concerned with improving their lives, education, and their relationship with one another. The Church Schools received his particular attention, and in general, how to raise the younger generation in a true Christian spirit. Thanks to the bishop's energy and love of his duties, the Diocese of the Caucasus was soon put into good order. Unfortunately, Bishop Ignatius was not able to rule the diocese for long. Smallpox, along with a terrible fever, completely exhausted his health. He had been weakened already by his former ascetical struggles and by his workload.
Desiring to complete the remainder of his life in the solitude for which he yearned, the bishop decided to petition the Tsar and the Synod
to retire him so that he might end his days in peace. His request was accepted and he received retirement with pay. He was also appointed as Superior of the St. Nicholas Babaev Monastery in the Diocese of Kostroma.
The bishop arrived at the monastery on October 13, 1861. He went there to be at peace, but being accustomed to constant work, he could not be at ease just doing nothing. Even now, he looked to improve the monastery which had been entrusted to him. The order of Divine Services, the monastery's Rule, the monks' trapeza, the living quarters, all these were improved. He rebuilt the Superior's living quarters; he also built a beautiful new church to replace the old one. He saw to the proper use of the monastery's land, and the monastery's finances increased. The inner life of the monks was also improved. The bishop was the same extraordinary instructor that he had been elsewhere.
In the midst of all his labors, the best consolation for him was the visits of various close friends and guests. So, in his first year at Babaev, and for the last time in their lives, his friend Father Michael Chikhachev arrived from St. Sergius Hermitage. In 1862, his retired
brother, the former governor of Stavropol Province, came to live in the monastery as "a pilgrim." In August of 1866, he was visited by
Tsar Alexander II and the Grand Duke, who listened kindly to the Elder's conversation about monasticism.
In addition to his talks with visitors, Bishop Ignatius loved his literary labors. He reread and rewrote his previous articles, and wrote new articles. In these labors, caring for the monastery, and his monastic struggles, Bishop Ignatius spent all of his time living in Babaev Monastery until the spring of 1867. No one knew, except the Elder himself, just how close the time of his death was. He had already been preparing for it for some time.
On the Bright Day of Christ's Resurrection, after Vespers, he suddenly announced that no one was to disturb him, because he needed to prepare for death in solitude. This was on April 16. The following day, the bishop began to say farewell to his close friends. When he bade his cell attendant farewell, he bowed to the ground before him and said, "Batushka, please forgive me." Such was the Elder's humility, and it moved the cell attendant to tears. During those days, he often said that it was difficult for him to bring his mind down to earthly matters.
His feelings did not deceive him. On April 30, 1867, he reposed quietly and in peace. Death found him in solitude and at prayer. No one knew when or how his soul departed his body. His body remained in his cell for three days, preserving on his face the imprint of unearthly peace and joy. Then it was taken to the monastery church and buried by Bishop Jonathan, the vicar of the Kostroma Diocese. The funeral service seemed more like a spiritual feast than a sad funeral.
Saint Ignatius was glorified by the Jubilee Council of the Moscow Patriarchate (June 6-9, 1988), during the millennial celebration of the Baptism of Rus. His holy relics are preserved at the Tolga Monastery on the Volga River, near Yaroslavl.
Icon of the Mother of God “of the Passion”
The Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Passion” The icon received its name because on either side of the Mother of God are two angels with the implements of the Lord’s suffering: the Cross, the lance, and the sponge.
There was a certain pious woman, Katherine, who began to suffer seizures and madness after her marriage. She ran off into the forest and attempted suicide more than once.
In a moment of clarity she prayed to the Mother of God and vowed that if she were healed, she would enter a monastery. After recovering her health, she only remembered her vow after a long time. Afraid and mentally afflicted, she took to her bed. Three times the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to her, commanding the sick woman to go to Nizhni-Novgorod and to buy Her icon from the iconographer Gregory.
After she had done this, Katherine received healing. From that time on, miracles have occurred from this icon. The Feast day of this icon is on August 13, commemorating its transfer from the village of Palitsa to Moscow in 1641. A church was built at the place where it was met at the Tver gates, and in 1654, the Strastna monastery was built.
The icon is also commemorated on April 30, and on the sixth Sunday after Pascha (the Sunday of the Blind Man) in memory of the miracles which occurred on this day. Other “Passion” icons of the Mother of God have been glorified in the Moscow church of the Conception of Saint Anna, and also in the village of Enkaeva in Tambov diocese.
New Martyr Argyra
The holy New Martyr Argyra lived in Proussa, Bithynia, and came from a pious family. She was a beautiful and virtuous woman. When she was eighteen, she married a pious Christian, and they moved into a neighborhood inhabited by many Moslems.
After only a few days, she was approached by a Turkish neighbor, the son of the Cadi (magistrate). He boldly declared his love for her, and tried to convert her to his religion. She rejected his advances, saying that she would rather die than be married to a Moslem. She did not tell her husband, fearing that he would go after the Turk and then be punished for it.
The Moslem brought her to trial and testified that she had assented to his advances, but then had laughed and said she was only joking. His lies were corroborated by false witnesses, and Argyra was sent to prison.
The saint’s husband, hoping to get her a fair trial, appealed to Constantinople. There the accuser repeated his lies before the judge. Saint Argyra said that she was a Christian, and that she would never deny Christ. The judge ordered her to be flogged, then sentenced her to life in prison.
She was often taken from her cell, interrogated, beaten, then returned to prison. This continued for seventeen years. The saint was also insulted and tormented by the Moslem women who were incarcerated for their evil deeds. The Evil One incited them to annoy Saint Argyra with these torments and afflictions, but she endured all these things with great courage and patience.
According to the testimony of many Christian women who were in prison with her, she humbled her body through fasting. Her heart was filled with such love for Christ that she regarded her hardships as comforts.
A pious Christian named Manolis Kiourtzibasis sent her word that he would try to have her released, but Saint Argyra would not consent to this. She completed her earthly pilgrimage in the prison, receiving the crown of martyrdom on April 5, 1721.
After a few years her body was exhumed, and was found to be whole and incorrupt, emitting an ineffable fragrance. Pious priests and laymen took her body to the church of Saint Paraskeve on April 30, 1735 with the permission of Patriarch Paisius II.
Her relics remain there to this day, where they are venerated by Orthodox Christians from all walks of life, to the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Saint Argyra’s name comes from the Greek word for silver (argyre). THE NEW MARTYR ARGYRA 1688-1721 by P. Philippidou (which also contains a Service to the saint) was published in Constantinople in 1912.
Great Vespers – no streaming this evening
No streaming this evening due to schedule
Daily Readings for Saturday, April 29, 2023
2ND SATURDAY AFTER PASCHA
2nd Saturday after Pascha, Jason and Sosipater the Apostles of the 70 and their Companions, Holy Martyr Cercyra, Our Holy Father John of Kaloktenos, Metropolitan of Thebes, Basil, Bishop of Montenegro, Nektarios the New Martyr of Optina
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 5:21-32
In those days, the apostles entered the temple and taught. Now the high priest came and those who were with him and called together the council and all the senate of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, and they returned and reported, 'We found the prison securely locked and the sentries standing at the doors, but when we opened it we found no one inside." Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were much perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And some one came and told them, "The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people." Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.
At that time, when the people saw the sign which Jesus had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!
Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, entered a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, but he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
On the next day the people who remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. However, boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves entered the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.
Nine Martyrs at Cyzicus: Theognes, Rufus, Antipater, Theostichus, Artemas, Magnus, Theodotus, Thaumasius, and Philemon
The city of Cyzicus is in Asia Minor on the coast of the Dardenelles (Hellespont). Christianity already began to spread there through the preaching of Saint Paul (June 29). During the persecutions by the pagans, some of the Christians fled the city, while others kept their faith in Christ in secret.
At the end of the third century Cyzicus was still basically a pagan city, although there was a Christian church there. The situation in the city distressed the Christians, who sought to uphold Christianity. The nine holy martyrs Thaumasius, Theognes, Rufus, Antipater, Theostichus, Artemas, Magnus, Theodotus, and Philemon were also from Cyzicus. They came from various places, and were of different ages: the young like Saint Antipater, and the very old like Saint Rufus. They came from various positions in society: some were soldiers, countryfolk, city people, and clergy. All of them declared their faith in Christ, and prayed for the spread of Christianity.
The saints boldly confessed Christ and fearlessly denounced the pagan impiety. They were arrested and brought to trial before the ruler of the city. Over several days they were tortured, locked in prison and brought out again. They were promised their freedom if they renounced Christ. But the valiant martyrs of Christ continued to glorify the Lord. All nine martyrs were beheaded by the sword (+ ca. 286-299), and their bodies buried near the city.
In the year 324, when the Eastern half of the Roman Empire was ruled by Saint Constantine the Great (May 21), and the persecutions against Christians ended, the Christians of Cyzicus removed the incorrupt bodies of the martyrs from the ground and placed them in a church built in their honor.
Various miracles occurred from the holy relics: the sick were healed, and the mentally deranged were brought to their senses. The faith of Christ grew within the city through the intercession of the holy martyrs, and many of the pagans were converted to Christianity.
When Julian the Apostate (361-363) came to rule, the pagans of Cyzicus complained to him that the Christians were destroying pagan temples. Julian gave orders to rebuild the pagan temples and to jail Bishop Eleusius. Bishop Eleusius was set free after Julian’s death, and the light of the Christian Faith shone anew through the assistance of the holy martyrs.
In Russia, not far from the city of Kazan, a monastery was built in honor of the Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus. It was built by the hierodeacon Stephen, who brought part of the relics of the saints with him from Palestine. This monastery was built in the hope that through their intercession and prayers people would be delivered from various infirmities and ills, particularly a fever which raged through Kazan in 1687.
Saint Demetrius of Rostov (September 21), who composed the service to the Nine Martyrs, writes, “through the intercession of these saints, abundant grace was given to dispel fevers and trembling sicknesses.” Saint Demetrius also described the sufferings of the holy martyrs and wrote a sermon for their Feast day.
Venerable Memnon the Wonderworker
Saint Memnon the Wonderworker from his youth lived in the Egyptian desert. By his arduous ascetical efforts, he attained a victory of spirit over the flesh.
As Igumen of one of the Egyptian monasteries, he wisely and carefully guided the brethren. Even while aiding them through prayer and counsel, the saint did not waver in his efforts in the struggle against temptation.
He received the gift of clairvoyance through unceasing prayer and toil. At his prayer a spring of water gushed forth in the wilderness, locusts destroying the harvest perished, and the shipwrecked who called on his name were saved. After his death, the mere mention of his name dispelled a plague of locusts and undid the cunning wiles of evil spirits.
Martyrs Diodorus and Rhodopianus—Deacons, at Aphrodisia in Anatolia
The Holy Martyrs, Deacons Diodorus and Rhodopianus suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) in Aphrodisias, Caria. They were stoned to death for spreading Christianity among the pagans.
Saint Basil, Bishop of Zakholmsk in Montenegro, Serbia
Saint Basil, Bishop of Zakholmsk, was born of pious parents in the sixteenth century in the Popov district of Herzegovina. At the age of maturity he left his parental home and settled in the Trebinsk monastery in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, and became a monk.
For his virtuous life the saint was elevated to be Bishop of Zakholm and Skenderia. He occupied the bishop’s cathedra in the second half of the sixteenth century, a successor to Bishop Paul and predecessor of Bishop Νikόdēmos. Saint Basil was a good pastor of the flock of Christ, and the Lord strengthened his discourse with various miracles. For the sanctifying of soul with the wisdom of holy ascetic fathers, the saint journeyed to Athos. Saint Basil died peacefully and was buried in the city of Ostrog in Chernogoria on the border with Herzegovina.
Venerable Nectarius of Optina
Saint Nectarius was born in the city of Elets in the Orel province in 1853, the son of Basil and Elena Tikhonov. At his baptism, he was named Nicholas.
Saint Nectarius completed the course of his earthly life on April 29, 1928.
The Moscow Patriarchate authorized local veneration of the Optina Elders on June 13,1996, glorifying them for universal veneration on August 7, 2000.
Martyrs of Lazeti
Lazeti is a region in southern Kolkheti (Colchis), the ancient kingdom located in what is now southwestern Georgia and northeastern Turkey. In ancient times, Lazeti was a center of Georgian culture. The holy Apostle Andrew began the conversion of the Georgian nation from this very region.
After the fall of Byzantium in 1453, the Ottomans sought for three centuries to destroy the Christian-Georgian consciousness of the Laz people. At the same time, Rome increased its presence in the region by dispatching ever greater numbers of Catholic missionaries.
The Laz, caught in the crossfire, boldly defended and preserved their Orthodox Faith. Those that were forcibly converted to Islam struggled to preserve their national culture, the memory of their ancestors, and the love of their homeland.
As time progressed, however, some grew weak and converted to Catholicism (in word, if not in mind and heart) or allowed themselves to be won over by the Monophysite heresy.
In our own time, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, people from several Georgian regions have reestablished lines of communication with the Laz who currently reside within Turkish borders.
Further, many of the Laz currently residing within Georgian borders have converted from Islam back to the Orthodox Christianity of their ancestors. They have recounted to the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church stories of the martyrdom of their Christian ancestors at the hands of the Ottomans: the beheading of some three hundred Laz warriors on a single mountain between the years 1600 and 1620 and the martyrdom of the clergy at one local monastery. The martyrdoms took place on Mt. Dudikvati (“the place of beheading”) and on Mt. Papati (“the place of the clergy”) respectively.
Based on the information provided by the martyrs’ descendants, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church declared all the clergy and laymen martyred on Dudikvati and Papati and all the Laz martyred for Christ’s sake worthy to be numbered among the saints. They were canonized on September 18, 2003.
Saint Endellion, recluse of Cornwall
No information available at this time.
Daily Readings for Friday, April 28, 2023
2ND FRIDAY AFTER PASCHA
2nd Friday after Pascha, The Holy Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus, John the Martyr of Romania, Memnon the Wonderworker
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 5:1-11
In those days, a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Hark, the feet of those that have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.
JOHN 5:30-47; 6:1-2
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him: "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of the Father who sent me. If I bear witness to myself, my testimony is not true; there is another who bears witness to me, and I know that the testimony which he bears to me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony which I receive is from man; but I say this that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has granted me to accomplish, these very works which I am doing, bear me witness that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness to me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen; and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe him whom he has sent. You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men. But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased.
Apostles Jason and Sosipater of the Seventy, the Virgin Kerkyra, and those with them
The Apostle Jason was from Tarsus (Asia Minor). He was the first Christian in the city. The Apostle Sosipater was a native of Patra, Achaia. He is thought to be the same Sosipater mentioned in Acts 20:4. They both became disciples of Saint Paul, who even called them his kinsmen (Rom 16:21). Saint John Chrysostom (Homily 32 on Romans) says that this is the same Jason who is mentioned in Acts 17:5-9. Saint Jason was made bishop in his native city of Tarsus, and Saint Sosipater in Iconium. They traveled west preaching the Gospel, and in 63 they reached the island of Kerkyra [Korfu] in the Ionian Sea near Greece.
There they built a church in the name of the Protomartyr Stephen and they baptized many. The governor of the island learned of this and locked them up in prison, where they met seven thieves: Saturninus, Iakischolus, Faustianus, Januarius, Marsalius, Euphrasius and Mammius. The Apostles converted them to Christ. For their confession of Christ, the seven prisoners died as martyrs in a cauldron of molten tar, wax and sulfur.
The prison guard, after witnessing their martyrdom, declared himself a Christian. For this they cut off his left hand, then both feet and finally his head. The governor ordered the Apostles Jason and Sosipater to be whipped and again locked up in prison.
When the daughter of the governor of Kerkyra (Korfu), the maiden Kerkyra, learned how Christians were suffering for Christ, she declared herself a Christian and gave away all her finery to the poor. The infuriated governor attempted to persuade his daughter to deny Christ, but Saint Kerkyra stood firm against both persuasion and threats. Then the enraged father devised a terrible punishment for his daughter: he gave orders that she be placed in a prison cell with the robber and murderer Murinus, so that he might defile the betrothed of Christ
But when the robber approached the door of the prison cell, a bear attacked him. Saint Kerkyra heard the noise and she drove off the beast in the name of Christ. Then, by her prayers, she healed the wounds of Murinus. Then Saint Kerkyra enlightened him with the faith of Christ, and Saint Murinus declared himself a Christian and was executed.
The governor gave orders to burn down the prison, but the holy virgin remained alive. Then on her enraged father’s order, she was suspended upon a tree, choked with bitter smoke and shot with arrows. After her death, the governor decided to execute all the Christians on the island of Kerkyra. The Martyrs Zeno, Eusebius, Neon and Vitalis, after being enlightened by Saints Jason and Sosipater, were burned alive.
The inhabitants of Kerkyra, escaping from the persecution, crossed to an adjoining island. The governor set sail with a detachment of soldiers, but was swallowed up by the waves. The governor succeeding him gave orders to throw the Apostles Jason and Sosipater into a cauldron of boiling tar. When he beheld them unharmed, he cried out with tears, “O God of Jason and Sosipater, have mercy on me!”
Having been set free, the Apostles baptized the governor and gave him the name Sebastian. With his help, the Apostles Jason and Sosipater built several churches on the island, and increased the flock of Christ by their fervent preaching. They lived there until they reached old age.
Martyrs Dada, Maximus, and Quinctilian, at Dorostolum
The Martyrs Dada, Maximus and Quinctilian suffered under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), who issued a decree requiring everyone to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods during the public festivals, and to put Christians to death.
Tarquinius and Gabinius, the emperor’s representatives in Dorostolum, made a sumptuous feast, attended not only by the inhabitants of the city, but also people from the surrounding villages.
After the festivities, someone reported to the emperor that three brothers, Dada, Maximus and Quinctilian, did not obey the imperial decree and withdrew themselves into the Ozovia forest. Soldiers were sent after them, who caught the holy brothers at prayer and led them forth for trial.
The governors interrogated the brothers, who confessed themselves Christians. Tarquinius offered to make Saint Maximus a pagan priest of Zeus, but the saint called Zeus a foul adulterer and again confessed the True God.
Tarquinius attempted to reason with Saints Dada and Quinctilian. They said that their brother was well versed in the Holy Scripture and they would follow him in everything. They threw the martyrs into prison, but they thought only of the salvation of their souls. At midnight when the saints were asleep, the devil appeared to them. When the martyrs woke, they beheld an angel who said, “Fear not, for God your hope brings you to Himself. He is not far from you and will sustain you.”
In the morning, Tarquinius told the brothers that the gods had revealed their will to him in a dream: they were to be put to death if they did not offer sacrifice. The martyrs answered that the Lord had commanded them to endure torments for His sake.
The tortures and interrogations continued for several days from morning to evening. Finally, they sentenced the martyrs to death, led them out under guard to their forest and beheaded them with a sword.
Saint Cyril, Bishop of Turov
Saint Cyril, Bishop of Turov, was born of rich parents in the thirties of the twelfth century in the city of Turov at the River Pripyat.
From his early years Saint Cyril eagerly read the sacred books and attained a profound understanding of them. He studied not only in Russian, but also in Greek. When he reached maturity Saint Cyril refused his inheritance and was tonsured in Turov’s Saint Boris and Gleb monastery. He struggled much in fasting and prayer and taught the monks to obey the igumen. A monk who is not obedient to the igumen does not fulfill his vow, and therefore is not able to be saved.
Three writings of Saint Cyril on monastic life have survived, one of which, “A Narrative on the Black Clergy from the Old Law and from the New,” may be ascribed to a period of his being in the monastery.
After a certain while Saint Cyril lived on a pillar, where he increased his asceticism, and meditated on the Holy Scripture. Many turned to him for counsel in the spiritual life.
Saint Cyril’s holiness of life and profound enlightenment became known to many, and so he was chosen as Bishop of Turov. In 1169 Saint Cyril took part in a council censuring Bishop Theodore, who occupied the Vladimir-Suzdal cathedra and who sought to separate from the metropolitanate of Kiev. Saint Cyril denounced the heresy of Theodore and wrote many letters to the holy prince Andrew Bogoliubsky (July 4), in which he provided him instruction and guidance in discovering the cause of church disorders in the Rostov region.
Because of his love for solitude, Saint Cyril left his See (by the year 1182, Bishop Laurence is mentioned as the Bishop of Turov) and he devoted himself fully to spiritual writing. He composed a discourse on the yearly cycle of the Lord’s Feasts, but not all of them have been preserved. The works of Saint Cyril deserve a place beside the works of the holy Fathers in book collections.
The most complete collection of works by Saint Cyril of Turov, published by Bishop Eugenius of Turov in 1880, includes:
Sermon on Palm Sunday, from Gospel accounts
Sermon on Holy Pascha on the Radiant Day of the Resurrection of Christ, from the prophetic accounts
Sermon on the Sunday after Pascha, on the Renewal of the Resurrection, on the Artos [loaf blessed on Pascha], and on Thomas Touching the Side of the Lord
Sermon on Taking down the Body of Christ and on the Myrrh-bearing Women, from the Gospel account, and in praise of Joseph on the Third Sunday After Pascha
Sermon on the Paralytic from Genesis and from the Gospel account, on the Fourth Sunday After Pascha
Sermon on the Blind man and the enmity of the Jews from the Gospel account, on the Fourth Sunday After Pascha
Sermon on the Ascension of the Lord, on Thursday of the Sixth Week After Pascha, from prophetic decrees, and on Raising the Race of Adam from Hades
Sermon on the Holy 318 Fathers, from the Holy Books, on Christ the Son of God, and in praise of the Fathers of the Holy Council of Nicea, on the Sunday Before Pentecost
Parable on the Blind and the Lame
Parable on the Human Soul, and on the Body, and on Breaking God’s Commandments, and on the Resurrection of the Human Body, and on the Future Judgment, and on the Torment
Narrative on the Black Clergy, from the Old Testament and from the New, bearing a common form, and the accomplishing of this matter
To Igumen Basil: a Parable on the White Clergy, and on Monasticism, and on the Soul, and on Repentance
Letter of a certain Elder to the Blessed Archimandrite Basil on the Schema
Four Prayers on Sunday (after Matins, Hours, and two after Vespers)
Four Prayers on Monday
Four Prayers on Tuesday
Five Prayers on Wednesday (after Matins, Hours, and three after Vespers)
Three Prayers on Thursday (after Matins, Hours, Vespers)
Four Prayers on Friday (after Matins, Hours, and two after Vespers)
Six Prayers on Saturday (two after Matins, one after Hours, and three after Vespers)
Confession and Remembrance.
Later, the “Sermon on the Enlightenment of our Lord Jesus Christ” was discovered. The saint also composed a “Great Canon of Repentance to the Lord in Alphabetic Chapters.” As a theologian Saint Cyril believed his task was to discern the true and hidden meaning of various texts of Holy Scripture.
Saint Cyril died on April 28, 1183. His contemporaries regarded him as a Russian Chrysostom. The saint humbly wrote of himself: “I am not a harvester, but I gather sheaves of grain; I am not an artist in literary matters.” He was always conscious of the sublime hierarchical service to which the Lord had called him: “If I were to speak of my own opinions, you would do well not to come to church, but I proclaim to you the Word of God. I read to you the accounts of Christ. I present to you the words of God, finer than gold or other stones, sweeter than mead or honeycomb, and you would be deprived of them by not coming to church, … but I praise and bless those of you who do come.”
Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women
Pious Joseph of Arimathea and Righteous Nicodemus
About the beginning of His thirty-second year, when our Lord was going throughout Galilee, preaching and working miracles, many women who had received of His beneficence left their homeland and from then on followed after Him. They ministered unto Him out of their own possessions, even until His crucifixion and entombment; and afterwards, neither losing faith in Him after His death, nor fearing the wrath of the Jewish rulers, they came to His sepulcher, bearing the myrrh-oils they had prepared to anoint His body. It is because of the myrrh-oils that these God-loving women brought to the tomb that they are called the Myrrh-bearers. Of those whose names are known are the following: first of all the most holy Virgin Mary, who in Matthew 27:56 and Mark 15:40 is called the mother of James and Joses@ (these are the sons of Joseph by a previous marriage, and she was therefore their step-mother); Mary Magdalene; Mary, the wife of Cleopas; Joanna, wife of Chouza, a steward of Herod Antipas; Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee; Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus; and Susanna. As for the names of the rest of them, the evangelists have kept silence.
On this day we also make commemoration of Joseph of Arimathea, who was a secret disciple, and also of Nicodemus, who was a disciple by night. Joseph went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus, and together with Nicodemus, he gave Him burial out of reverence and love.
Acts 6:1-7: In those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily ministry. And the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said: “It is not right that we should forsake the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good report, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. And we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And the saying pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Próchoros, and Nikánor, and Tímon, and Parmenás, and Nikólaos a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly, and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
Mark 15:43-16:8: At that time, Joseph of Arimathaea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the Kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And Pilate wondered if He were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether Jesus was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that He was dead, he granted the body to Joseph. And he bought a linen shroud, and taking Him down, wrapped Him in the linen shroud, and laid Him in a tomb, which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where He was laid. And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb at the rising of the sun. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back – it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a long white robe; and they were amazed. And he said to them, “Do not be amazed; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, Who was crucified. He is risen; He is not here; see the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him, as He told you.” And they went out quickly and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Troparion of the Resurrection: When thou, O immortal Life, didst humble thyself unto death, then didst thou destroy death by the brightness of thy Godhead; and when thou didst raise the bowels of the earth, then all the heavenly powers exclaimed, O Christ, thou art the Giver of life! Glory to thee, O our God!
Troparia of the Holy Myrrh-Bearers: The pious Joseph, having brought down thy pure body from the Tree, wrapped it in fine linen, embalmed it with ointment, provided for it, and laid it in a new tomb. But thou didst truly rise, after three days, O Lord, granting the world the Great Mercy.
Verily, the angel came to the tomb and said to the ointment-bearing women, The ointment is meet for the dead, but Christ is shown to be remote from corruption. But cry ye, The Lord is risen, granting the world the Great Mercy.
Troparion of the Chains of St. Peter: O Holy Apostle, Peter, thou dost preside over the Apostles by the precious chains which thou didst bear. We venerate them with faith and beseech thee that by thine intercessions we be granted the great mercy.
Kontakion of Pascha: When Thou didst descend into the grave, O Immortal, Thou didst destroy the power of Hades. In victory didst Thou arise, O Christ God, proclaiming Rejoice! to the myrrh-bearing women, granting peace to Thine apostles and bestowing resurrection on the fallen.
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE: All services listed on the calendar will be available through streaming and webcast. (Instructions can be found on the parish website.)
Sunday, April 30 (Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers)
8:50 a.m. — Orthros (webcast)
9:00 a.m. — Christian Education
10:00 a.m. — Divine Liturgy (webcast)
Monday, May 1
Father Herman off
Tuesday, May2 (Athanasios the Great)
1:00 p.m. — Ladies Lunch
Wednesday, May 3
6:30 p.m. — Daily Vespers
Thursday, May 4
11:30 a.m. — Men’s Lunch
Friday, May 5
Saturday, May 6
Sunday, May 7 (Sunday of the Paralytic)
8:50 a.m. — Orthros (webcast)
9:00 a.m. — Christian Education
10:00 a.m. — Divine Liturgy (webcast)
The Eucharist Bread …was offered by the Algoods for the Divine Liturgy this morning.
Eucharist Bread Schedule:
Eucharist Bread Coffee Hour
April 30 Algood Schelver
May 7 Schelver D. Root/Baker
May 14 Morris Henderson/Jones
May 20 (Sat. p.m.) Baker (Artos Bread for Litia/Sts. Constantine & Helen)
May 21 Jones Dansereau/Alaeetawi
(Special Coffee Hour to honor High School Graduates)
May 24 (Wed. p.m.) Meadows Lockhart/Karam/Snell
(Feast of Ascension)
May 28 Davis POT LUCK MEAL
Schedule for Epistle Readers – Page numbers refer to the Apostolos (book of the Epistles) located on the Chanters’ stand at the front of the nave. Please be sure to use this book when you read.
Reader Reading Page#
April 30 Reader Basil Baker Acts 6:1-7 38
May 7 Walt Wood Acts 9:32-42 45
May 14 Brenda Baker Acts 11:19-30 52
May 21 Sh. Charlotte Algood Acts 26:1, 12-20 384
May 24 (Wed. p.m.) Kh. Sharon Meadows Acts 1:1-12 63
May 28 Ian Jones Acts 20:16-18, 28-36 66
Also, please remember that we still need your tithes and offerings which may be placed in the tray that is passed during the Divine Liturgy, in the tithe box at the back of the nave or be mailed to: St. Peter Orthodox Church, P.O. Box 2084, Madison, MS 39130-2084.
Please remember the following in your prayers: Aidan Milnor, the Milnor family; Lamia Dabit and her family; Mary Greene (Lee and Kh. Sharon’s sister); Jay and Joanna Davis; Fr. Leo and Kh. Be’Be’ Schelver and their family; Kathy Willingham; Marilyn (Kyriake) Snell; Jack and Jill Weatherly; Lottie Dabbs (Sh. Charlotte Algood’s mother), Sh. Charlotte and their family; Maria Costas (currently at St. Catherine’s Village); Reader Basil and Brenda Baker and their family; Buddy Cooper; Georgia and Bob Buchanan; Fr. Joseph Bittle; Anthony and Athena Zouboukos and Keri Waites; Steve and Sheryl Chamblee.
Metropolitan SABA will be enthroned as Metropolitan of our Archdiocese on Saturday, May 13th at St. Nicholas Cathedral in Brooklyn, NY. May God grant him Many Years!
Father Herman will be attending Metropolitan SABA’s enthronement. He will leave on Thursday, May 11th and return Saturday evening, May 13th. Father John will celebrate Great Vespers on Saturday evening and Father Herman will celebrate Orthros and Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning.
Luke Habeeb (Jackson Prep) and Cole Parker (MRA) will be graduating from high school in May. We will honor both of them with a special Coffee Hour on Sunday, May 21st. (Please disregard the notation for the Pot Luck Meal on the May calendar that was handed out previously.)
We will have our Monthly Pot Luck Meal for the month of May on Sunday, May 28th during Bishop NICHOLAS’ visit to St.Peter. (Again, please disregard the notation for the Pot Luck Meal on the May calendar that was handed out previously.)
Fasting Discipline for May
The Holy Synod of Antioch has given instruction in the past that there will be no fasting for the entirety of the Paschal Season. Following the leave-taking of Pascha (May 24th), the traditional fasting discipline (no meat, dairy, eggs, fish, wine or oil) will once again be observed on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Major Commemorations for May
May 2 Athanasios the Great
May 7 Sunday of the Paralytic
May 10 Simon the Zealot
May 14 Sunday of the Samaritan Woman
May 21 Sunday of the Blind Man
Sts. Constantine and Helen
May 24 Leave-taking of Pascha
May 25 Ascension
The Forerunner (3rd Discovery)
May 28 Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
Time is running out to register for the PLC. This year the Parish Life Conference will hosted by St. George Cathedral in Coral Gables, FL on June 14-17. Father Herman sent an email with the link for registration, or you may also go to the Diocesan website DOMSE.org.
Archdiocese Convention: The Biennial Antiochian Archdiocese Convention is being hosted by St. George Orthodox Church in Phoenix, Az on July 23-30. Information about the convention may be found at http://www.ac2023az.org.
PARENTS, your help is needed in the following areas:
1) A problem has arisen due to the nursery room being left messy after Coffee Hour. No food of any kind should be taken into that room. Also, it is necessary for a parent to be in the room whenever their children are in there playing. Thank you for your assistance with this.
2) Please see that your children do not use the Sunday school rooms with the doors closed during Coffee Hour.
3) Please ask your children to not climb the trees in the front of the church. (The playground will be available again soon.)
* The men of the parish meet for lunch at 11:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of the month.
* The Ladies meet at the church at 10:00 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month to pray the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children on behalf of our children.
* The Ladies meet for lunch on the last Tuesday of the month.
* Stew Pot Dates for 2023 are Saturday, May 13th and Saturday, September 9th.
* Special Coffee Hour to honor High School Graduates, Luke Habeeb and Cole Parker on Sunday, May 21st.
* Mark your Calendars now! His Grace, Bishop NICHOLAS will be at St. Peter for his Archpastoral visit May 26-28. He will celebrate the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy with us on Sunday morning. We will also have our Monthly POT LUCK MEAL that Sunday.
Quotable: “Orthodox Christianity does not use deductive reasoning to defend or explain the faith, nor does it attempt to resolve conflicts between faith and reason. It does not modify the faith to conform to human thought or opinions. This should not be misunderstood: Orthodoxy does not reject the contribution of human intellect, nor does it reject science or education. The Fathers of the Church were also rational in their arguments against heresy, but they did not rely on deductive reasoning to resolve theological questions. They discussed the importance of the human intellect in the comprehension of God. In fact, it is the intellect, or nous, that is enlightened and can articulate theological truths, but not through deductive reasoning and scholarly study. Rather it is through prayer and one’s relationship with God that the intellect achieves true enlightenment.”
Dr. Eugenia Constantinou, Thinking Orthodox, Understanding and Acquiring
the Orthodox Christian Mind
Worship: Sunday, May 7, 2023 (Sunday of the Paralytic)
Scripture: Acts 9:32-42; John 5:1-15
Celebrant: Father Herman
Epistle Reader: Walt Wood
Coffee Hour: D. Root/Baker
Daily Readings for Thursday, April 27, 2023
2ND THURSDAY AFTER PASCHA
2nd Thursday after Pascha, The Holy Hieromartyr Symeon, Kinsman of the Lord, Eulogios the Innkeeper of Constantinople
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 4:23-31
In those days, when the apostles were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’- for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment. I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of the Father who sent me.”
Hieromartyr Simeon, kinsman of the Lord, second Bishop of Jerusalem
The Holy Apostle and Hieromartyr Simeon, a kinsman of the Lord, was the son of Cleopas, who was the younger brother of Saint Joseph the Betrothed. Thus, Saint Simeon is Joseph's nephew, and a cousin of the Lord. As an adult, he witnessed the miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ, believed in Him, and became one of the 70 Apostles. Saint Simeon proclaimed the teachings of Christ, was instructed in the truths of the holy Faith, and denounced idol worship. After the murder of the Holy Apostle James (October 23), the first Bishop of Jerusalem, Christians chose the Apostle Simeon to succeed him.
The Emperors Vespasian and Domitian had ordered that all descendants of King David be put to death. Emperor Trajan (98-117) renewed that decree, and certain heretics and some others denounced Saint Simeon as a descendant of King David, as well as a Christian.
The pagans arrested Saint Simeon, who at that time was more than one hundred and twenty years old. He astonished the judge and his attendants by enduring several days of torture, and then he was crucified in the year 107, during Trajan's reign, when Atticus was consul.
The Parisian Codices contain a Service in honor of Saint Simeon, the poem of the hymnographer Theophanēs. (Some Synaxaristes also commemorate him on September 18).
Venerable Stephen, Abbot of the Kiev Far Caves, and Bishop of Vladimir, in Volhynia
Saint Stephen, Igumen of the Caves, Bishop of Vladimir in Volhynia, pursued asceticism at the Kiev Caves monastery under the guidance of Saint Theodosius (May 3). Saint Theodosius sometimes entrusted him to exhort the brethren with edifying words.
Before the death of Saint Theodosius the monks asked him to appoint Saint Stephen as Igumen, who was the domesticus (chief arranger for the choir). “He grew up under your instruction,” they said, “and he served you. Give him to us.” So Saint Theodosius transferred the guidance of the monastery to Saint Stephen.
During his tenure as Superior, he laid the foundations of a spacious church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos, begun under Saint Theodosius. The cells of the brethren were moved near the new church. At the front of the place there were several cells for monks who were entrusted with burying the dead. They served the Divine Liturgy each day, and also commemorated the dead.
In 1078 Saint Stephen was removed from office and driven from the monastery through the malice of an evil monk. He endured this meekly and without bitterness, and continued to pray for those who had turned against him.
Saint Stephen learned that master builders had come from Greece with an icon of the Theotokos, and they told him of the appearance of the Heavenly Queen at Blachernae. Because of this, Saint Stephen also built a church at Klovo in honor of the Theotokos (in memory of the Placing of Her Robe at Blachernae). The monastery was founded in thanksgiving for solicitude of the Most Holy Theotokos for the Caves monastery.
In 1091 Saint Stephen was made Bishop of Vladimir in Volhynia, and he participated in the transfer of the relics of Saint Theodosius from the cave to the monastery (August 14). He also labored to convert the inhabitants of Volhynia to Christianity.
Saint Stephen died on April 27, 1094 during the sixth hour of the night.
Saint Eulogius the Hospitable of Constantinople
Saint Eulogios lived in the Thebaid, in Egypt, and his occupation was that of a quarryman (stone cutter). He was called the Xenodokhos (one who receives strangers), because during his life, his greatest concern and pleasure was to offer hospitality in his home, and to provide every assistance to the poor and to pilgrims.
Despite his heavy and laborious work, each evening, as soon as he finished his work, he would run to the marketplace, holding a lantern in the winter, and went looking for strangers, to offer them shelter and every other hospitality. He once hosted Abba Daniel (June 7) and his disciple, when they came to the city and were left without food and shelter.
Saint Eulogios lived for over a hundred years, benefiting his fellow men (Mark 9:41), and he reposed in peace during the VI century. As his name indicates, he was truly a most blessed man.
The Burning of Saint Sava's relics
After his death in Trnovo, Bulgaria on January 14, 1235 Saint Savva was buried in the
Cathedral of the Forty Martyrs. On May 6, 1237 his relics were carried in procession from Trnovo to Mileshevo Monastery in Serbia. When the casket was opened, the relics were found to be incorrupt, and produced an ineffable fragrance. In 1253, the Serbian Orthodox Church glorified the holy hierarch Savva as a Saint.
Following the Battle of Kosovo on June 25, 1389, the Serbian nation fell under the Turkish Yoke. During this period the Serbs continued to visit the tomb of Saint Savva, asking him to give them the strength to endure the oppressive persecution they suffered at the hands of the Turks. His icon was placed on their flags, and the faithful turned to the Saint for encouragement, consolation, and healing.
The Serbs revolted in 1595, led by Patriarch John Kantul and others. Sinan Pasha, the Turkish military leader in Belgrade, sent soldiers to crush the rebellion. Sultan Mohammed II ordered that the relics of Saint Savva be burnt. On Great and Holy Friday, the Turks removed the Saint's relics from Mileshevo Monastery. The next day, April 27, they climbed Savinac Hill in the Vrachar district and set fire to the holy relics.
Instead of becoming despondent, the Serbs were inspired to even greater love for Christ, for Holy Orthodoxy, and for Saint Savva. Although the Saint's relics had been destroyed, the people continued to venerate him, and to remember the burning of his relics every year.
After national independence in 1879, there was a proposal to build a memorial church in honor of Saint Savva. In 1895, the three hundredth anniversary of the burning of Saint Savva's relics, plans were made to build a church on the site where his relics were burnt. A temporary chapel was constructed the following year, but it was not possible to build a large cathedral until after World War I. In 1927, Patriarch Barnabas announced a competition for architects to submit designs for the cathedral. In 1935, architects were chosen and construction began.
During World War II, work was halted when the Communists seized power. Only in 1984 did Patriarch German receive government approval to resume construction. On June 25, 1989, Patriarch German served the first Divine Liturgy in Saint Savva's Memorial Cathedral, which towers over the city of Belgrade.
There is a famous Serbian saying: "Sinan Pasha lit the flames, Savva's body burned, but Savva's memory and his glory did not burn."
Daily Vespers – Wed 4/26/23
Here is the live stream for Daily Vespers – Wed 4/26/23 If you need, here are instructions for accessing this content from your phone, tablet, computer, or TV.
Daily Readings for Wednesday, April 26, 2023
2ND WEDNESDAY AFTER PASCHA
2nd Wednesday after Pascha, Basil the Holy Martyr Bishop of Amasea, Glaphyra the Righteous, Justa the Nun
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 4:13-22
In those days, when the Jews saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any one in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people; for all men praised God for what had happened. For the man on whom the sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him: "My Father is working still, and I am working." This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these he will show him, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Hieromartyr Basil, Bishop of Amasea
Saint Basileus (Βασιλεύς, Βασίλειος) suffered during the reign of Licinius, the ruler of the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. He was elected to the See of Amaseia in the IV century, and participated in the Synods of Ankyra and Neocaesarea in 314 and 315. Saint Athanasios called him "the Great" because Saint Basileus defended the Faith against heresy. He may have influenced Saint Constantine's decision to issue the Edict of Milan (313), granting religious toleration to Christians, Deceitfully, Licinius also signed the Edict, but he hated the Christians and continued to persecute them.
Bishop Basileus was distinguished for his life of faith and his tireless activities in the performance of his duties. He was always preaching, giving counsel, comforting, supporting, and strengthening the souls of the Christians against the world of idol-worshippers. For this reason, the pagan priests and rulers hated him. In 322, when Licinius launched his persecution against the Christians, Bishop Basileus opposed him.
He further provoked the wrath of Constantine's co-Emperor Licinius by hiding the young virgin Glaphyra, the handmaiden of his wife Empress Constantia, the sister of Saint Constantine. The pious maiden, who came from a noble Italian family, angrily rejected the Emperor's advances, asking Empress Constantia for her help. She dressed Glaphyra in men's clothes and told her to leave Nikomedia in secret, giving her a large amount of gold, silver and precious stones. Those in the palace heard her tell Licinius that the girl had gone mad, and lay at death's door.
After a long journey, Saint Glaphyra found herself in Amaseia, where she found shelter in the house of a pious Christian. There she was visited by Saint Basileus who advised her to lead a secluded life, so as not to bring any trouble upon the local Christians from the ruler of the city. At the time, Bishop Basileus was building a church, and the righteous Glaphyra donated all her money to him. She wrote to Constantia telling her where she was, and asking for more gold to be sent to complete the work. The Empress gladly fulfilled her request, but Glaphyra's letter accidentally fell into the hands of Licinius. He ordered the ruler of Amaseia to send Saint Basileus and Saint Glaphyra to him at Nikomedia. However, Saint Glaphyra reposed before the order was received, and therefore, only Saint Basileus was sent to the Emperor. Two deacons, Parthenios and Theotimos accompanied him to Nikomedia.
At Nikomedia, Bishop Basileus was imprisoned, and the Deacons lodged with a Christian named Elpidophoros. On the eve of the trial Saint Basileus saw Elpidophoros and the Deacons, and told them how the Lord had appeared to him that night, informing him how he would be put to death. He asked the Deacons not to grieve for him and he told them to return to Amaseia. The holy hierarch predicted that Elpidophoros would receive a reward in Heaven for taking care of the Deacons.
At the trial, Licinius accused Saint Basileus of hiding Glaphyra, but promised him forgiveness and much honor if he would just sacrifice to their "gods." Having achieved nothing, Licinius ordered the soldiers to beat the Saint, and then behead him. Thus, he received a crown of glory from Christ God (ca. 322).
After the execution, soldiers placed the Martyr's body and head into a boat and, sailing far out to sea, they threw the relics into the water in different places, just as it was foretold to Saint Basileus in prison. That night an Angel appeared three times to Elpidophoros, saying that Saint Basileus was expecting his friends at Sinópē. While on his way to Sinópē the Angel appeared to him again with instructions as to where in the sea he should look for the Martyr's body. At the request of Elpidophoros, fishermen pulled the Saint's body out of the net. Miraculously, the head was reattached to the body. On the neck was there a scar made by the sword, and from the relics there came a wondrous fragrance. Some Christians took them to Amaseia and buried them in the church which the Saint had built.
The Greek Life of Saint Basileus was written by the priest John of Nikomedia, who visited the Martyr in prison and witnessed his execution. He also received information about Saint Basileus from Elpidophoros and the Deacons. The Life says that Saint Basileus was beheaded on March 28. His relics were found at sea after 25 days, i.e. April 21 or 22. They arrived in Amaseia and were buried five days later, on April 26.
Saint Basileus is also commemorated on April 30 (the transfer of his relics).
Saint Stephen, Bishop of Perm
Saint Stephen the Enlightener of Perm, and Apostle to the Zyrians, was born around the year 1340 into the family of Simeon, a cleric of the Ustiug cathedral. He was greatly influenced by his pious mother Maria. Endowed with great abilities, he already displayed an unusual zeal for the service of the Church: in a single year he learned to read the Holy Books and he assisted his father in church during services, fulfilling the duty of canonarch, and also that of reader.
The young saint received monastic tonsure at the Monastery of Saint Gregory the Theologian at Rostov. The monastery was famed for its fine library. Since Saint Stephen wanted to read the holy Fathers in their original language, he studied Greek.
In his youth, when he had assisted his father in church, he frequently spoke with the Zyrian people. Now, having been immersed in the rich culture of the Church, Saint Stephen burned with a desire to convert the Zyrians to Christ.
To facilitate the enlightenment of the Zyrians, he compiled an alphabet of their language and translated some of the Church books. For this pious work Bishop Arsenius of Rostov (1374-1380), ordained him to the rank of hierodeacon.
Having prepared himself for missionary activity, Saint Stephen journeyed to Moscow (1379) to see Bishop Gerasimus of Kolomna, who then oversaw the affairs of the metropolitanate. The saint implored him, “Bless me, Master, to go into a pagan land, Perm. I want to teach the holy Faith to the unbelieving people. I am resolved either to lead them to Christ, or to lay down my life for them and for Christ.” The bishop joyfully blessed him and ordained him as a hieromonk. He provided him with an antimension for the altar table, holy chrism and service books, and Great Prince Demetrius gave him a document of safe passage.
From Ustiug Saint Stephen made his way along the North Dvina River up to the confluence of the Vychegda into it, where settlements of the Zyrians began. The proponent of faith in Christ suffered many toils and struggles, deprivation and sorrow, living among the pagans who worshipped idols “with fire, water, trees, a stone and golden woman-figure, and shaman, and wizard, and wood.”
Father Stephen was sad to see that the Zyrians continued to worship a “sacred birch tree.” Immense in its thickness and height, the birch tree grew on an elevated spot. The Zyrians gathered there and brought wild animals there for sacrifice.
Saint Stephen’s cell was not far from the birch tree. He prayed and set fire to the tree in order to end the superstition. The Zyrians, seeing that the tree had been destroyed, meant to kill him. The saint said to them, “Judge for yourselves whether or not your gods have any power, since they are not able to defend themselves from the fire. Can they be gods, when they are so powerless? They have no mind, neither can they see or hear. Your idol could not defend itself against me, a weak man. Are all your other gods so powerless? The Christian God is not like this. He sees everything, knows everything and is Almighty, since He created the whole world and foresees everything. How good He is, particularly to those who know Him! I desire only what is good for you, to bring you to the true God. He will love you and bless you, when you sincerely begin to honor Him.” On the site of the “sacred birch tree,” Saint Stephen built a church in honor of the Archangel Michael, the vanquisher of the spirits of darkness.
The newly-baptized Zyrians themselves began to remove that which they once worshiped. They cut down sacred trees, they destroyed idols, and they brought to Saint Stephen the rich gifts set aside for the pagan sacrifices. He told his Zyrian helper Matthew to throw everything into the fire, except the linen cloth which was used for foot wrappings.
But things came to a head among the Zyrians after Saint Stephen got the better of their chief priest Pama, who rose up against the spread of Christianity. The pagan priest entered into a debate with Saint Stephen. “Christian, you have only one God,” said Pama, “but we have many helpers on the land, and in the water, granting us good hunting in the forests, and with its abundance providing food and pelts to Moscow, the Horde and faraway lands. Our gods reveal to us the magic mysteries, inaccessible to you.”
Saint Stephen answered that the true God is one; the Almighty is one, but experience has proven that the idols are powerless. After a lengthy dispute the pagan priest Pama challenged Saint Stephen to pass through fire and water in a test of faith. Saint Stephen humbly replied, “Great is the Christian God. I accept your challenge.”
Pama, however, lost his nerve and entreated the saint to save him from certain death. “You are witnesses,” said Saint Stephen to the people “how he wished to resolve the dispute about faith by fire and water, but he does not wish to be baptized. Who has regard for Pama now? What is to be done with him?”
“Let the deceiver be put to death,” the people said, “for if Pama is set free, he will make mischief for you.” “No,” the saint replied, “Christ has not sent me to hand anyone over to death, but to teach. Since Pama does not wish to accept the saving Faith, let his stubbornness punish him, but I will not.” Pama was banished. In thanksgiving for his victory over the chief pagans, Saint Stephen built a church in honor of Saint Nicholas at Vishero. After this, the saint’s preaching of Christ was more successful.
In 1383, Saint Stephen was consecrated Bishop of Malaya Perm [Lesser Perm]. Like a loving father he devoted himself to his flock. To encourage the newly-converted, Saint Stephen opened schools adjacent to the churches, where they studied the Holy Scriptures in the Permian language. The saint supervised the instructions, and taught them what they needed to know in order to become priests and deacons. Saint Stephen taught several of his students how to write in the Permian language. The saint built churches, in which he placed Zyrian priests, and services were conducted in the Zyrian language.
Saint Stephen translated the HOROLOGION [Book of Hours], the PSALTER, and other liturgical books into the Zyrian language.
During a crop failure the saint provided the Zyrians with bread. Many times he protected them from the trickery of corrupt officials, gave them alms, and defended them from the incursions of other tribes, interceding for them at Moscow. The fruit of his efforts and good deeds came in the conversion of all of Perm to Christianity. This great deed was accomplished by his strength of faith and Christian love. The life of the saint was a victory of faith over unbelief, of love and meekness over malice and impiety.
There was a touching “meeting in absence” of Saint Stephen of Perm with Saint Sergius of Radonezh, occurring in the year 1390 as Saint Stephen journeyed to Moscow on church business. Saint Stephen fervently loved the Radonezh ascetic and very much wanted to pay him a visit, but had no time to do so. Ten versts from the monastery of Saint Sergius, Saint Stephen turned in the direction of the monastery and with a bow he said, “Peace to you, my spiritual brother!”
Saint Sergius, who was eating a meal with the brethren, stood up, made a prayer and, bowing towards the direction where the saint rode, answered, “Hail also to you, pastor of the flock of Christ, may the peace of God be with you!”
The deep spiritual connection of Saint Stephen of Perm and Saint Sergius of Radonezh is recalled even today in a certain prayer recited each day in the trapeza.
Besides building churches, Saint Stephen also founded several monasteries for the Zyrians: the Savior Ulianov wilderness monastery 165 versts from Ust-Sysolsk, the Stephanov 60 versts from Ust-Sysolsk, the Ust-Vym Archangel, and the Yareng Archangel.
In the year 1395 Saint Stephen again went to Moscow on affairs of his flock, and died there. His body was placed in the Church of the Transfiguration in the Moscow Kremlin. The Zyrians bitterly lamented the death of their archpastor. They earnestly entreated the Moscow prince and the Metropolitan to send the body of their patron back to Perm, but Moscow did not wish to part with the relics of the saint.
The glorification of Saint Stephen began already at the beginning of the fiftenth century. The Life of the saint was written soon after his death. The hieromonk Pachomius the Serb composed the service to him, with the hieromonk Epiphanius the Wise, who was a disciple of Saint Sergius of Radonezh. He also knew Saint Stephen and loved to converse with him.
Righteous Virgin Martyr Glaphyra
The Virgin Glaphyra. Licinius burned with passion for Glaphyra, a maidservant of his wife Constantia.The holy virgin reported this to the empress and sought her help. Dressing her in men’s attire and providing her with money, the empress Constantia sent her to Pontus in the company of a devoted servant. They told the emperor that Glaphyra had gone mad and lay near death. On her way to Armenia, Saint Glaphyra stopped in Amasea, where the local bishop, Saint Basil, gave her shelter.
At this time the saint was building a church in the city. Saint Glaphyra donated all the money that she had received from Constantia for its construction, and in a letter to the empress she asked her to send additional funds to complete the church. The empress fulfilled her request. However, Saint Glaphyra’s letter fell into the hands of the emperor. The enraged Licinius ordered the governor of Amasea to send him the hierarch and the maidservant. Saint Glaphyra died before the edict arrived in Amasea, and Saint Basil was sent to the emperor. Two deacons, Parthenius and Theotimos, followed after him and lodged near the prison where the saint was held.
The pious Christian Elpidephoros bribed the jailer and each night he visited the saint with Parthenius and Theotimos. On the eve of the saint’s trial, he sang Psalms and chanted, “if I should sojourn at the extremity of the sea… even there Thy hand would guide me, and Thy right hand would hold me” (Ps 138/139:9-10). These were prophetic words.
Three times he broke down in tears. The deacons were afraid that the saint would not be able to endure the coming torments, but he calmed them.
At the trial Saint Basil resolutely refused the emperor’s offer to become a pagan priest, and so he was sentenced to death. Elpidephoros gave the soldiers money, and they allowed the saint to pray and to speak with his friends before execution. Then the saint said to the executioner, “Friend, do as you have been ordered.” Calmly, he bent his neck beneath the sword.
When the martyr had been beheaded, Elpidephoros tried to ransom his relics from the soldiers. But the soldiers were afraid of the emperor and they threw the saint’s body and head into the sea. After this, an angel of God appeared to Elpidephoros three times in a dream, saying, “Bishop Basil is in Sinope and awaits you.”
Heeding this call, Elpidephoros and the deacons sailed to Sinope, and there they hired fishermen to lower their nets. When they lowered the net on the suggestion of the deacons Theotimos and Parthenius, they came up with nothing. Then Elpidephoros declared that he would ask them to lower the net in the name of the God Whom he worshiped. This time, the net brought up the body of Saint Basil. The saint’s head was attached to his body once more, and only the gash on his neck indicated the blow of the sword. The relics of Saint Basil were taken to Amasea and buried in the church he built.
Saint Joannicius of Devich, Serbia
On April 26, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Uncovering of the relics of Saint Ioannikios of Devič. For his life, please see December 2.
6,000 Martyrs of Saint David Gareji Monastery, Georgia
In 1616 the Persian shah Abbas I led his enormous army in an attack on Georgia. Having quenched his thirst for the blood of the Christians, he arranged a hunt in the valley of Gare (Outer) Kakheti. He encamped with his escorts in the mountains of Gareji and spent the night in that place.
At midnight the shah’s attention was drawn to a flaming column of lights advancing up the mountain. At first he took it to be an apparition. He was soon informed, however, that a famous monastery was situated in that place and on that night the monks were circling their church three times with lighted candles in celebration of Christ’s Holy Resurrection. Immediately the shah commanded his army to march to the monastery and destroy all those found celebrating.
That same night an angel of the Lord appeared to Abbot Arsenius of David-Gareji and told him, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is calling the brothers to His Heavenly Kingdom. On this night great suffering awaits you—you will be killed by the sword. He who desires to prolong his earthly life, let him flee, but he who thirsts to purify his soul for eternity, let him perish by the sword, and the Lord God will adorn him with the crown of immortality. Tell this to all who dwell in the monastery, and let each man choose for himself!”
The abbot informed the monks about his vision, and they began to prepare for their imminent sufferings. Only two young monks feared death and fled to a mountain not far from the monastery. At the chanting of the Lord’s Prayer near the end of the Paschal Liturgy, the monastery was completely surrounded by Persian warriors. Abbot Arsenius stepped out of the church and approached their leader to request that the monks be given a bit more time to finish the service and for all the brothers to receive Holy Communion.
The Persians consulted among themselves and agreed to honor this request. The fathers partook of the Holy Gifts, encouraged one another, and presented themselves clad in festive garments before the unbelievers. First the Persians beheaded Abbot Arsenius; then they massacred his brothers in Christ without mercy.
After the Persians finished killing the monks, they were organized into several regiments and made their way towards the other monasteries of the Gareji Wilderness. Halfway between the Chichkhituri and Saint John the Baptist Monasteries the Muslims captured the two young monks who had earlier fled and demanded that they convert to Islam.
The monks refused to abandon the Christian Faith and for this they were killed. A rose bush grew up in the place where they were killed and continued to fragrantly blossom through the 19th century, despite the dry and rocky soil.
At the end of the 17th century, King Archil gathered the bones of the martyrs with great reverence and buried them in a large stone reliquary to the left of the altar in the Transfiguration Church of David-Gareji Monastery. Their holy relics continue to stream myrrh to this day.
The brothers of the Monasteries of Saint David of Gareji and Saint John the Baptist received a blessing from Catholicos Anton I to compose a commemorative service for the martyrs and to designate their feast day as Bright Tuesday, or the third day of Holy Pascha.
Icon of the Mother of God of Mozdok and Dubno-Krasnogorsk
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