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
No information available at this time.