ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Holy Wednesday, Basil the Confessor, Bishop of Parium, Sergius II, Patriarch of Constantinople, Anthousa the Righteous of Constantinople, Akakios of Kavsokalyvia
At that time, the crowd that had been with Jesus when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead bore witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. The Pharisees then said to one another, "You see that you can do nothing; look, the world has gone after him.
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew went with Philip and they told Jesus. And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.
Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing by heard it and said that it had thundered. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the ruler of this world be cast out; and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." He said this to show by what death he was to die. The crowd answered him, "We have heard from the law that the Christ remains for ever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?" Jesus said to them, "The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.
When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me.
When Jesus was at Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head, as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for a large sum, and given to the poor." But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. In pouring this ointment on my body she has done it to prepare me for burial. Truly, I say to you wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Great and Holy Wednesday
On Great and Holy Wednesday, the hymns of the Bridegroom Service remind us of the sinful woman who poured precious ointment on Christ’s head at Simon the leper’s house (Mt. 26:7).
The disciples complained about the wasteful extravagance, for the myrrh could have been sold and the money given to the poor. On this same day Judas agreed to betray the Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Because the betrayal took place on Wednesday, Orthodox Christians fast on most Wednesdays during the year.
On the other hand, the Savior declared that the woman’s actions would be remembered wherever the Gospel is preached (Mt. 26:13), for she had anointed Him in preparation for His burial (Mt. 26:12).
Saint Basil the Confessor, Bishop of Parium
Saint Basil the Confessor, Bishop of Parium, lived during the eighth century. He was elected as bishop by the inhabitants of Parium, who venerated the saint as a true pastor of the flock of Christ.
When the Iconoclast heresy broke out, Saint Basil resolutely came out on the side of icon veneration and refused to sign the orders for their abolition (the “Iniquitous Scroll”) of the Council of 754 which was convened under the emperor Constantine V Copronymos (741-775). The saint avoided any contact with the heretics and did not permit them into his diocese. For his zeal he suffered much persecution, hunger and deprivation.
Saint Basil remained faithful to the Orthodox Church until his death.
Hieromartyr Zeno, Bishop of Verona
Saint Zeno, Bishop of Verona, was born a Greek and came from Syria. In his youth he became a monk and devoted himself to the study of Holy Scripture. Visiting several monasteries, the saint came to the city of Verona and settled there. The people chose him as bishop of the city.
The emperors Constantius (353-361) and Valens (364-378), were advocates of the Arian heresy, which had been condemned at the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea in the year 325. Under their patronage the Arians began a persecution against the Orthodox. Saint Zeno bravely endured all the oppression from the heretics.
In his sermons and letters he firmly asserted the Orthodox teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ as the Only-Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. Saint Zeno wrote sixteen long and seventy-seven short discourses and directives. He died around the year 360.
Saint Gregory Dialogus (March 12) speaks of a miracle in the year 558 on Saint Zeno’s Feast day. There were spring floods in Italy. The River Tiber overflowed its banks and inundated the surrounding area. The River Atesis flowing past Verona also flooded. The water reached the church built in honor of the hieromartyr Zeno, and came up to the windows of the church. The doors of the temple were open, but the water did not rush inside. It stopped at the wall, and did not harm the church.
Saint Isaac the Syrian, Abbot of Spoleto
Saint Isaac the Syrian lived during the mid-sixth century. He came to the Italian city of Spoleto from Syria. The saint asked permission of the church wardens to remain in the temple, and he prayed in it for two and a half days. One of the church wardens began to reproach him with hypocrisy and struck him on the cheek. Then the punishment of God came upon the church warden. The devil threw him down at the feet of the saint and cried out, “Isaac, cast me out!” Just as the saint bent over the man, the unclean spirit fled.
News of this quickly spread throughout the city. People began to flock to the saint, offering him help and the means to build a monastery. The humble monk refused all this. He left the city and settled in a desolate place, where he built a small cell. Disciples gathered around the ascetic, and so a monastery was formed. When his disciples asked the Elder why he had declined the gifts, he replied, “A monk who acquires possessions is no longer a monk.”
Saint Isaac was endowed with the gift of clairvoyance. Saint Gregory Dialogus (March 12) speaks of this in his “Dialogues About the Lives and Miracles of the Italian Fathers.” Once, Saint Isaac bade the monks to leave their spades in the garden for the night, and in the morning he asked them to prepare food for the workers. Some robbers, equal to the number of spades, had come to rob the monastery, but the power of God forced them to abandon their evil intent. They took the spades and began to work. When the monks arrived in the garden, all the ground had been dug up. The saint greeted the toilers and invited them to refresh themselves with food. Then he admonished them to stop their thievery, and gave them permission to come openly and pick the fruits of the monastery garden.
Another time, two almost naked men came to the saint and asked him for clothing. He told them to wait a bit, and sent a monk into the forest. In the hollow of a tree he found the fine clothes the travelers had hidden in order to to deceive the holy igumen. The monk brought back the clothes, and Saint Isaac gave them to the wanderers. Seeing that their fraud was exposed, they fell into great distress and shame.
It happened that a certain man sent his servant to the saint with two beehives. The servant hid one of these hives along the way. The saint said to the servant, “I accept the gift, but be careful when you go back for the beehive that you hid. Poisonous snakes have entered into it. If you stretch forth your hand, they will bite you.” Thus the saint unmasked the sins of people wisely and without malice, desiring salvation for all.
Saint Isaac died in 550. This saint should not be confused with the other Saint Isaac the Syrian, Bishop of Ninevah, who lived during the seventh century (January 28).
Monastic Martyrs Menas, David, and John, of Palestine
The Monk Martyrs Menas, David and John lived in Palestine. They were martyred in the seventh century by Arabs, who shot them through with arrows (+ post 636, when Jerusalem was captured by the Arabs).
Venerable Anthusa of Constantinople
The holy princess Anthusa of Constantinople was the daughter of the Iconoclast emperor Constantine Copronymos (reigned 741-775) and his third wife Eudokia. She and her twin brother, the future emperor Leo the Khazar (775-780), were born on January 25, 750.
Constantine had tortured the holy Abbess Anthusa of Mantinea (July 27) because she venerated the holy icons. During a campaign in Paphlagonia, he had her brought before him again, promising her even harsher torments if she did not come around to his way of thinking. She remained steadfast in defending the icons, however. Constantine told her that his wife was having difficulty in her pregnancy, and he asked her to pray for the empress. She agreed to do so, and told him that the children would be born safely, and even spoke about their future life.
Empress Eudokia's daughter was given the name Anthusa, in thanksgiving for the safe delivery of the twins. When Saint Anthusa's prediction was fulfilled, she was allowed to return to her convent, where she died at a ripe old age.
When she grew up, the emperor began to urge his daughter to marry. But from her youth Saint Anthusa yearned for monasticism and refused to consider his suggestions. After the death of her father, she shared her possessions with the poor, and used her wealth to adorn many churches. She became a mother to orphans, and was also a protector of widows. She devoted herself entirely to a life of piety, constantly offering prayers to the Lord and reading the Holy Scriptures. The devout empress Irene (780-802), wife of Leo the Khazar, regarded Saint Anthusa with love and esteem and invited her to be a co-regent. Saint Anthusa, however, did not desire any worldly honors. Since she lived at the palace, she wore clothes befitting her position as an emperor's daughter, but underneath her finery she wore a hair-shirt.
Desiring a life of solitary asceticism, Anthusa entered the monastery of Saint Euthymia, and received the monastic tonsure from Saint Tarasius, the Patriarch of Constantinople (Feb. 25). She founded the Omonia (Concord, or Charity) monastery at Constantinople, which was known for its strict Rule. Saint Anthusa was an example of humility to the other nuns. She did hard work, she cleaned the church, and carried water. She never sat at the table during meals, but served the sisters instead. She made sure that no one left the monastery in need.
The humble and gentle ascetic lived until the age of fifty-two, and died peacefully in 801. Other sources say she reposed in 808 when she was fifty-seven.
Venerable Athanasia, Abbess of Aegina
Saint Athanasia was abbess of a monastery on the island of Aegina in the ninth century. She was born into a pious Christian family, and her parents were named Nicetas and Marina. Already at seven years of age the girl studied the Psalter, which she read constantly and with feeling. Once, while working at the weaver’s loom, Saint Athanasia saw a shining star coming down to her from above, which touched her bosom and lightened all her being, and then disappeared. From that moment, the maiden was illumined in soul and she firmly resolved to enter a monastery.
When Saint Athanasia reached the age of sixteen, her parents entreated her to marry. She consented, but after sixteen days her husband was killed by barbarians who invaded Aegina.
Saint Athanasia decided to take advantage of her unexpected freedom and dedicate herself to God. Then the emperor Michael the Stammerer (820-829) issued a decree ordering all young widows and virgins to take husbands. Therefore, Saint Athanasia was forced to marry again. It is said that her second husband was a Moslem, whom she converted by her holy way of life.
She led a pious and virtuous life. She did housework, helped the sick and those in need, and took in wanderers. On Sundays and feastdays she invited family and acquaintances to her home and read the Holy Scriptures to them. Under her influence, her husband entered a monastery, and progressed in virtue and holiness. Soon, he departed to the Lord.
The saint gave away her property, became a nun, and founded a women’s monastery in a remote place. After four years, the sisters asked Saint Athanasia to become the abbess of the small community. In spite of her position, the saint surpassed all the others in meekness and humility. She asked about the infractions of the sisters with love, not anger.
Although Saint Athanasia had the title of abbess, she regarded herself as the least of the sisters and always had in mind the commandment of the Savior: “Whoever would be first among you, let him be your servant” (Mt. 20:27). The saint never permitted the sisters to wait on her, not even to pour water over her hands.
Saint Athanasia wore a hair-shirt, and over it clothes of coarse sheep’s wool. She slept very little, and prayed most of the night. By day she labored together with the sisters. On most days she ate only bread and water, and that in moderation, and only after the ninth hour of the day. She never ate cheese or fish except on Pascha and on the twelve Great Feasts. During Lent, she did not eat bread or drink water. She would only eat some vegetables every other day.
On the island of Aegina lived a certain monk named Matthew, who had been an igumen. Each night he read the whole PSALTER, and also read prayers. The saint slept sitting up and only for a short time. He could not refrain from tears when the Psalms were chanted, while reading prayers, or offering the Bloodless Sacrifice.
He wore only a coarse hair-shirt, and through his temperance and struggles his body became completely withered. He had a special love for Saint John the Theologian. Once, during the the Divine Liturgy he saw the Apostle standing by the altar table.
The saint healed a paralytic with his mantle; by making the Sign of the Cross he corrected the face of a man distorted by the actions of the devil; he cast out demons and worked many other miracles. Saint Matthew blessed Saint Athanasia to go to a more isolated place with her sisters. She built a monastery on a desolate hill of the island near an ancient church of the Protomartyr Stephen.
Saint Athanasia was granted the gift of healing by God. After she healed a man afflicted with a malady of the eyes, a crowd of people began to flock to her in order to receive healing from their infirmities of soul and body. From the abundant gifts brought to the monastery, she built three churches at the monastery: one dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos, another to the holy Prophet John the Forerunner, and the third to Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.
Her increasing celebrity distressed the saint, and she took the two sisters closest to her in spirit (Maria and Eupraxia) and went secretly to Constantinople. There, as a simple nun, she entered one of the women’s monasteries, where she lived for seven years.
Again, her holy life attracted attention. The sisters of the Aegina monastery learned where their abbess had gone, and they went to her imploring her to return. Submitting to the will of God, she returned to the monastery she founded. Soon after this she had a vision of two radiant men, giving her a document which said: “Here is your freedom, take it and rejoice.”
Saint Athanasia spent the twelve days before her death in unceasing prayer. On the eve of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos she summoned the sisters and said that she was able to read the PSALTER only as far as the twelfth Psalm. The saint asked them to continue reading the PSALTER for her in church. The sisters went to church and there fulfilled her request, and then they came to bid the saint farewell. She blessed them and asked them to celebrate the Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos solemnly and joyfully, and also to provide a meal for the poor and destitute. Then, after Divine Liturgy, they could bury her body. With these words, Saint Athanasia fell asleep in the Lord on August 14, 860.
The saint predicted that she would receive glory in Heaven forty days after her death. On the fortieth day, two devout sisters were granted to see Saint Athanasia and two radiant men standing before the royal doors of the iconostasis. They clothed her with a purple robe embroidered with gold, pearls, and precious stones. They set a crown on her head, handed her a gleaming staff, and led her through the royal doors into the altar.
Before her death, Saint Athanasia ordered the nuns to feed the poor for forty days. The sisters, however, did not fulfill her request and set out the memorial meal for only ten days. The saint appeared to some of the sisters and said, “Let everyone know that alms given for a departed soul for forty days after death, and food offered to the hungry, appease God. If the departed souls are sinful, they receive forgiveness from God. If they are righteous, then the good deeds bring God’s mercy on the souls of those who perform them.”
Then she thrust her staff into the ground and became invisible. The staff left behind sprouted the next day and became a live tree. A year after the saint’s death, they led a possessed woman to the grave. When they dug up the ground, they then noticed a fragrance and removed the coffin. After she touched it, the demoniac was immediately healed. Then they opened the lid of the coffin and saw the saint’s incorrupt body, from which myrrh flowed.
Saint Athanasia looked like she was asleep. Her face shone brightly, her body was preserved incorrupt and soft, and even her hands were supple. The priests decided to place her body in church. When they transferred the body into a new coffin, the nuns removed the hair-shirt from her holy relics and wanted to dress her in silken clothes, but the hands of Saint Athanasia were so firmly clasped to her bosom, that the nuns could not dress her in the silken garb. Even in death the saint displayed her love for poverty. Then one of the sisters knelt down and began to pray to the saint, saying, “O lady, hear us as you heard us when you lived with us. Now consent to be dressed in these clothes, our humble gift to you.” Saint Athanasia, as though alive, lifted and extended her hands into the clothing.
The holy relics of Saint Athanasia were put into a crypt and became a source of healings.
The Life of Saint Athanasia is found in Vatican codex 1660, which dates from the year 916.
Saint Athanasia of Aegina is commemorated on April 12 (Slavic usage), and on April 18 (Greek usage).
Venerable Acacius the Younger of Mount Athos
Saint Acacius the New was a monk at the Holy Trinity monastery of Saint Dionysius of Olympus (January 24) at Zagora. After visiting several monasteries on Mount Athos, the saint on the advice of his father-confessor, Father Galacteon, settled in the skete monastery of Saint Maximus the Hut-Burner (“Kavsokalyvites”, January 13), who repeatedly appeared to the ascetic.
The exploits of Saint Acacius were extremely severe: in place of bread he ate dry grass, which he crushed with a piece of marble. When asked how much a monk ought to sleep, he said that for a true monk half an hour even was sufficient. He said, “In order to conquer the flesh, a monk must practice two virtues: fasting and vigil.” In spite of his age and illness, he was an example of this.
Once, when Saint Acacius had come on a Sunday to the skete church, the igumen Neophytus handed him his own staff and said, “Father, take the staff, and be the Superior for all these brethren until your last breath.” Saint Acacius kissed the hand of the igumen, and accepted the staff with all humility. Although previously he had walked with a staff because of his age, from that time forward the righteous one no longer held a staff in his hand.
For his exalted exploits Saint Acacius was granted the gifts of unceasing mental prayer and divine revelations. He fell asleep in the Lord on April 12, 1730, being nearly a hundred years old.
Murom Icon of the Mother of God
This icon was brought from Kiev to Murom by the Holy Prince Constantine of Murom (May 21) early in the XII century. For a long time, but quite unsuccessfully, Saint Constantine tried to attract the pagan inhabitants of the Murom principality to Christianity. His counsels met with no sympathy; moreover, they filled the people with hatred and contempt.
The more fanatical pagans plotted and swore to kill the Prince, or drive him out of Murom. When Constantine discovered the plot he prayed fervently to God. Then taking with him the Icon of the Mother of God, which he brought from Kiev, he went to confront the conspirators, trusting in the intercession and the help of the Queen of Heaven. When the pagans saw the Icon, they were so overcome with astonishment that they begged the Prince to forgive them. Then they agreed to be baptized into the Christian Faith.
The Murom icon is renowned for many other miracles, the most remarkable of which is the following. At the end of the XII century, Saint Basil was the Bishop of Murom. The people, mistakenly suspecting him of living in a way which was not appropriate for his high episcopal rank, intended to kill him. When Saint Basil learned of this decision, he asked his enemies to postpone his death until morning. All night long he prayed in the Church of Saints Boris and Gleb. After serving the Divine Liturgy, he went to the temple of the Annunciation and there he served a Moleben before the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, which he brought from Kiev. Placing all his hope in the Queen of Heaven, Saint Basil took the miraculous Icon and went to the Oke River. Removing his mantya, he spread it upon the water and stood upon it holding the Icon of the Mother of God. Suddenly there was a strong wind and Saint Basil was carried upstream against the current. Six hours later, the Bishop sailed to a place called Old Ryazan. There the people and the Prince received the Saint with honor. However, since Old Ryazan was poorly protected from the invasion of the Tatars, under whose yoke Russia was at that time, Saint Basil decided to look for another, safer place.
In 1291 he moved to New Ryazan, taking with him the Icon of the Mother of God. Since then, all his successors have lived in New Ryazan. Thus, with the abolition of the Murom cathedra, a new episcopal cathedra was established – that of New Ryazan.
Originally, the commemoration of the Murom-Ryazan Icon of the Mother of God took place on the second Sunday of the Apostle's Fast, then in 1810 (1814?) the Holy Synod, at the request of the residents of Ryazan, changed the Feast Day to April 12, when Saint Basil is commemorated.
The Murom Icon bears a certain resemblance to the Yakhrom Icon (October 14), in which the Divine Child is cradled on His Mother's left arm; His right hand touches her chin, while His left hand hangs down holding a scroll representing the Scriptures. In the Murom Icon, however, the head of the Divine Child leans back against His Mother's shoulder, and the scroll is open to reveal the words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me" (Luke 4:18).
The original Icon has not been preserved (all traces of it were lost when it was transferred from Murom to Ryazan). Frequently, copies of the Murom Icon were made, many of which are now found in various churches and museum collections. One of the copies was kept in the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Theotokos in Murom until its destruction in the XX century.
Belynich Icon of the Mother of God
The Belynich Icon of the Mother of God initially was in one of the Orthodox churches of the Mogilev district. After the emergence of the Unia (1596) the icon passed into the hands of the Catholics and was placed in a church of the Belynich Catholic monastery, founded in 1622-1624 by the hetman of Great Lithuania, Lev Sapega, on the banks of the River Druta, 45 versts from Mogilev. The icon was venerated both by Catholics and by Orthodox. In 1832 the monastery was dissolved, and the Catholic church became a parish church.
In 1876 the icon was given to the Orthodox after the restoration of the monastery. On April 12 of that year the first Divine Liturgy was served in the church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos on the altar table consecrated by an Orthodox bishop.
The Belynich Icon of the Mother of God is venerated throughout the Christian world.
On this day we also remember the Transfer of the Venerable Belt of the Mother of God from Zila to Constantinople in the year 942.
Transfer of the Holy Zone of Theotokos to Constantinople
The journey was made from the diocese of Zḗla (in Cappadocia) to Constantinople in the year 942, when the Emperors were Constantine and Romanos, the Porphyrogénnētoi.1 The Zone (Sash) was then placed in the Holy Soros2 of Chalkopratia on April 12.
1 Born in the purple. This refers to a room in the Palace where the Empress gave birth to her children. The walls were hung with purple draperies, a color reserved for royalty.
2 The Holy Soros was a chest containing the Robe and the Sash (Zone) of the Theotokos.