Author Archives: Saint Peter Orthodox Church

Daily Readings for Wednesday, February 08, 2023

THEODORE THE COMMANDER & GREAT MARTYR

NO FAST

Theodore the Commander & Great Martyr, The Holy Prophet Zacharias (Zachariah), Nicephoros & Stephanos the Martyrs, Afterfeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, Cuthman of Steyning

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 2:4-10

Brethren, God who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God: not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

MATTHEW 10:16-22

The Lord said to his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

The sixth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 8. The hymns of the day speak of Christ fulfilling the Law by being brought to the Temple, and of how the Theotokos “reveals to the world its Creator, and the Giver of the Law.”

Greatmartyr Theodore Stratelates “the General”

The Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates came from the city of Euchaita in Asia Minor. He was endowed with many talents, and was handsome in appearance. For his charity God enlightened him with the knowledge of Christian truth. The bravery of the saintly soldier was revealed after he, with the help of God, killed a giant serpent living on a precipice in the outskirts of Euchaita. The serpent had devoured many people and animals, terrorizing the countryside. Saint Theodore armed himself with a sword and vanquished it, glorifying the name of Christ among the people.

For his bravery Saint Theodore was appointed military commander [stratelatos] in the city of Heraclea, where he combined his military service with preaching the Gospel among the pagans subject to him. His gift of persuasion, reinforced by his personal example of Christian life, turned many from their false gods. Soon, nearly all of Heraclea had accepted Christianity.

During this time the emperor Licinius (311-324) began a fierce persecution against Christians. In an effort to stamp out the new faith, he persecuted the enlightened adherents of Christianity, who were perceived as a threat to paganism. Among these was Saint Theodore. Licinius tried to force Saint Theodore to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. The saint invited Licinius to come to him with his idols so both of them could offer sacrifice before the people.

Blinded by his hatred for Christianity, Licinius trusted the words of the saint, but he was disappointed. Saint Theodore smashed the gold and silver statues into pieces, which he then distributed to the poor. Thus he demonstrated the vain faith in soulless idols, and also displayed Christian charity.

Saint Theodore was arrested and subjected to fierce and refined torture. He was dragged on the ground, beaten with iron rods, had his body pierced with sharp spikes, was burned with fire, and his eyes were plucked out. Finally, he was crucified. Varus, the servant of Saint Theodore, barely had the strength to write down the incredible torments of his master.

God, however, in His great mercy, willed that the death of Saint Theodore should be as fruitful for those near him as his life was. An angel healed the saint’s wounded body and took him down from the cross. In the morning, the imperial soldiers found him alive and unharmed. Seeing with their own eyes the infinite might of the Christian God, they were baptized not far from the place of the unsuccessful execution.

Thus Saint Theodore became “like a day of splendor” for those pagans dwelling in the darkness of idolatary, and he enlightened their souls “with the bright rays of his suffering.” Unwilling to escape martyrdom for Christ, Saint Theodore voluntarily surrendered himself to Licinius, and discouraged the Christians from rising up against the torturer, saying, “Beloved, halt! My Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, restrained the angels and did not permit them to take revenge on the race of man.”

Going to execution, the holy martyr opened up the prison doors with just a word and freed the prisoners from their bonds. People who touched his robe were healed instantly from sicknesses, and freed from demonic possession. By order of the emperor, Saint Theodore was beheaded by the sword. Before his death he told Varus, “ Do not fail to record the day of my death, and bury my body in Euchaita.” He also asked to be remembered each year on this date. Then he bent his neck beneath the sword, and received the crown of martyrdom which he had sought. This occurred on February 8, 319, on a Saturday, at the third hour of the day.

Saint Theodore is regarded as the patron saint of soldiers. He is also commemorated on June 8.

Prophet Zachariah

The Prophet Zachariah the Sickle-Seer the eleventh of the twelve Minor Prophets. He was descended from the tribe of Levi, and seems to have been a priest (Nehemiah 12:4,16). He was called to prophetic service at a young age and became, in the wondrous expression of church hymnology, “a spectator of supra-worldly visions.”

The Book of the Prophet Zachariah contains inspired details about the coming of the Messiah (Zach 6:12); about the last days of the Savior’s earthly life, about the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem on a young donkey (Zach 9:9); about the betrayal of the Lord for thirty pieces of silver and the purchase of the potter’s field with them (Zach 11:12-13); about the piercing of the Savior’s side (Zach 12:10); about the scattering of the apostles from the Garden of Gethsemane (Zach 13:7); about the eclipse of the sun at the time of the Crucifixion (Zach 14:6-7).

“Enlightened by dawnings all above,” the Prophet Zachariah, “saw the future as it were the present.” According to Tradition, this “most true God-proclaimer” lived to old age and was buried near Jerusalem, beside his illustrious contemporary and companion, the Prophet Haggai (December 16). The title “Sickle-Seer” given Zachariah comes from a vision in which he saw a sickle flying in the air, destroying thieves and perjurors (Zach 5:1-3).

The holy Prophet Zachariah died around 520 B.C. His tomb was discovered in 415 in a village near Eleutheropolis (Sozomen, Hist. Eccles. VI:32, IX:17). At the prophet’s feet was the body of a child dressed in royal accoutrements. His holy relics were transferred to the church of Saint James the Brother of the Lord (October 23) in Constantinople.

Saint Sava II, Archbishop of Serbia

Born Predislav Nemanjic, the son of Saint-King Stephen Prvovencani the First-Crowned (September 24) and the nephew of Saint Savva I, the first Archbishop of Serbia (January 14), Saint Savva II distinguished himself in monastic life by his ascetic practices, in imitation of his sainted uncle.

He succeeded Saint Arsenius (October 28) as Archbishop of Serbia in 1266. He guided the Church with great love and dedication until his repose, variously dated as 1268, 1269 and 1271. His holy relics are at Pec, the site of the ancient Serbian Patriarchate.

Blessed Liubov (Sukhanovskaya) of Ryazan, Fool for Christ

Liuba Semyonova Sukhanovskaya was born in 1860 in the Ryazan region, in the city of Pronsk, into the family of Semyon and Maria Sukhanovsky, humble and God-fearing people. Later, her younger sister Olga was born.

In 1874, the Sukhanovskys moved to Ryazan and settled in a house on the corner of Vladimir and Resurrection Streets, becoming parishioners of the Entry of the Lord into Jerusalem church. The Lord took special notice of this pious family. The Sukhanovskys lived in poverty, and also had a heavy sorrow. Their beloved daughter Liubushka was paralyzed for fifteen years, and could neither walk nor stand on her own two feet. Her parents taught her to pray and how to read, however. Liuba prayed a great deal and read spiritual books, drawing on these for comfort. In particular, she loved to pray before the family icon of Saint Nicholas. Her pure prayer, and her uncomplaining patience in her illness, were accepted by the Lord, Who revealed His will for Liubushka. One day, when she was alone in the house, the God-pleaser Saint Nicholas appeared before her and said, "Get up, Liuba, go and play the fool!"

Liubushka stood up, which was a great joy for her mother when she returned home. But then her mother realized that the feat of foolishness was very difficult, and she went to the priest for advice. He listened to her and said, "This is God's will! Do not detain your daughter, let her go, let her play the fool! The steps of a man are rightly ordered by the Lord (Psalm 36/37:23). From that time, Liubushka embarked on that very difficult path.

The residents of Ryazan know her as an ascetic who enclosed herself in a wall between the stove and a wall in her house. She stood there for three years, like an ancient stylite, immersed in prayer and in the knowledge of God. Her humility before God's Providence, her patience and heavenly grace helped her to accomplish this unprecedented feat. The Lord prepared her for her contest by her fifteen years of paralysis, just as He did for Saint Elias of Murom (December 19). Three years later, Blessed Liubov, strengthened from above by divine love, left her "torture-chamber" and went out among the people, bearing this love.

Now living in Ryazan away from her relatives, she became a constant intercessor in all the city churches, and above all other monasteries, she loved visiting the Kazan Monastery, where she lived for a long time with some sisters, especially with the Superior, Igoumeness Katherine, who consoled with her sublime discourses. Liubushka was often seen on the street, in the shops of merchants, or in the homes of friends. And her conversations always had some spiritual purpose. The Blessed one prayed for people, giving them good and wise advice, and warning them of dangers. Everyone waited for her impatiently, for honorable people understood that the Lord Himself spoke through Liubushka, and had granted her both clairvoyance and the gift of love.

As with all fools for Christ, her actions were not quite ordinary. For example, the Blessed one would go into the shop of a wealthy merchant and take whatever she needed without asking. The merchant was only too happy about this, for he knew that he would do good business that day. Another time, Liubushka would pass by the shop without stopping, even if she were invited. When she was tired, the Blessed one would sit on someone's porch and be given food. She would accept it from some, but to others she said: "You don't have very much." If she did accept food, she gave it to the needy she met along the way. Poor people and beggars loved her very much.

Being clairvoyant, the Blessed one addressed even strangers by name, and would reply to unspoken questions. More often than not, Liubushka clothed her clairvoyance in a mysterious form, revealing things by means of paper figures. Knowing where her hostess kept scissors and paper, she took them, cut the figures out, and gave them to those for whom they were intended. If someone was about to travel, she would make a horse or a train. If a person was to be married, she would fashion a crown. If someone was about to die, she would cut out a tombstone. Some people feared her predictions and hid the scissors, but the Blessed one just tore the paper with her fingers and still gave the appropriate figures to those for whom they were meant. She made these figures with great skill, and silently she handed them to that person and then left. All of her predictions came true.

Some people, however, did not believe Liubushka, and laughed at her. She endured everything very complacently and patiently, and the smile never left her face. She dressed in very plain clothes, and on her head she wore a kerchief – sometimes blue, or pink. As a child, Liubushka loved the color pink, and she even asked that her coffin be lined with pink cloth when she died.

The Blessed one made predictions not only with paper figures, but also by other means. For example, they mention the following incident. During the Nativity Fast, Liubushka visited the Sh. family, where their grandmother was pouring tea for everyone at 4:00 P.M. At that time, Liubushka came in with a piece of velvet and said: "I was walking past the funeral parlor, where a coffin was being lined, and I took a piece of velvet. Here, take it!" The grandmother was perplexed, but soon they received news that their relative had died, and the velvet was for her coffin. This is how the Blessed one prepared everyone for the sad event.

On another occasion, Blessed Liubushka foretold the fate of two little girls through the icons that she gave them. One received an icon of Saint Alexander Nevsky, and later she married a man named Alexander, and they lived by the Alexander Nevsky train station. The other girl was given an icon of Saint Anna of Kashin, and like that Saint, she too was left as a widow with two children.

The Blessed one foresaw many things at her beloved Kazan Monastery. Once she cut out an entire monastery with scissors. The paper monastery had a fence, a church, and a choir in it. So in this way, she answered a question posed by the sister of a certain novice, who wondered whether she should be a nun. When the time came, this girl did enter the Monastery and, as one who possessed a rare voice (a female bass), she was placed in the choir to chant and read. After the Monastery was closed, she sang in the church until she was quite old.

The Blessed one returned to her home. At that time her grandfather was still alive. One day she arrived when her grandfather's kum1 was in the house, and he decided to joke with her and asked: "Tell us, Liubov Semyonovna, to whom will your house go when you die?" She smiled and replied, "To the soldiers." Everyone laughed at such an unexpected answer. No one could imagine that one day the house would be demolished, and in its place a military warehouse would be built to store equipment. Liuba's sister did not take her seriously either, and only after her death did she realize her mistake, seeing how many people came to accompany Blessed Liuba on her final journey, calling her the holy intercessor of Ryazan.

Before the abdication of the Tsar in 1917, the Blessed one walked through the streets and repeated: "The walls of Jericho are falling, the walls of Jericho are falling." Only later did people realize what that meant.

Three weeks before her death, Liubuska warned her good friend Elizabeth M. about it: "Lizon'ka, I am going to die soon, and you must pray to God for me. Go to my grave and take dirt from it, and line my coffin with pink cloth."

Blessed Liubov reposed on February 8, 1921. Everything was in ruins, the stores were empty, and Elizabeth decided to go to the pharmacy for some gauze at least. And O, the wonder! She was given some pink cloth. The coffin was beautifully decorated, and even ruffles and bows were made. So, to everyone's joy, Liubushka's wish was miraculously fulfilled. When the Blessed one was carried on her final journey, the streets around the funeral procession resembled a living wall of weeping people. Everyone abandoned their businesses in order to bid farewell to the marvelous God-pleaser. Later, over Blessed Liubov's grave, a monument was put up by the efforts of a resident of Ryazan, a Deacon, and others who admired her.

As the years passed, God was gradually displaced from the life and consciousness of formerly devout people who forgot their covenants and their own ancestors. Churches were being closed and destroyed, and priests were tortured and killed. Soon there was only one functioning church in Ryazan – a church dedicated to the "Joy of All Who Sorrow" Icon of the Mother of God. And there was a cemetery. But then few persons visited the cemetery, and Liubushka's grave became overgrown.

One day a certain soldier appeared at the cemetery and began to ask where Blessed Liubushka was buried. He wanted to put up a cross and a metal fence around her grave. This soldier happened to be very sick, but the doctors could not help him. Saint Liubov appeared to him in a dream and said: "Do not grieve or worry, but go to Ryazan, find the grave of Liubov Semyonovna Sukhanovskaya in the cemetery, and enclose it with a fence, and then you shall be healthy and happy."

He did as the Blessed one commanded him to do, and he was healed. He visited her grave every year and had a Panikhida served for her. Thus Saint Liubov came forth once more to the people who had forgotten her, in order to demonstrate that "love never fails" (I Corinthians 13:8).

Many other miracles were performed, and are still being performed, by prayers offered to Blessed Liubov of Ryazan. In 1992, by the diligence of the brethren of Saint John the Theologian Monastery, a chapel was built over her grave, and on June 10/23, 1998, Blessed Liubov was numbered with the Saints of Ryazan (June 23) and her holy relics were transferred to the Saint Nicholas-Yamsk church in Ryazan.


1 Kum = A godparent, or those who hold the crowns at an Orthodox wedding (from the Greek word κουμπάρος).

Daily Readings for Tuesday, February 07, 2023

TUESDAY OF PRODIGAL SON

NO FAST

Parthenius, Bishop of Lampsacus, Luke of Mount Stirion, George the New Martyr of Crete, Theopemptos the Martyr & his Companions, The Synaxis of the New Martyrs of Russia, Afterfeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, Richard, King of Wessex

ST. PETER’S SECOND UNIVERSAL LETTER 2:9-22

Beloved, the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Bold and willful, they are not afraid to revile the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a reviling judgment upon them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed, reviling in matters of which they are ignorant, will be destroyed in the same destruction with them, suffering wrong for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their dissipation, carousing with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a dumb ass spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness.
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm; for them the nether gloom of darkness has been reserved. For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.

MARK 13:14-23

The Lord said to his disciples, “When you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by Daniel the prophet, set up where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything away; and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not shortened the days, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if any one says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. False Christs and false prophets will arise and show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; I have told you all things beforehand.”

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

The fifth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 7.

Saint Parthenius, Bishop of Lampsacus on the Hellespont

Saint Parthenius, Bishop of Lampsacus, was a native of the city of Melitoupolis (in northwestern Asia Minor), where his father Christopher served as deacon. The youth did not receive adequate schooling, but he learned the Holy Scripture by attending church services. He had a good heart, and distributed to the poor the money he earned working as a fisherman.

Filled with the grace of God, Saint Parthenius from age eighteen healed the sick in the name of Christ, cast out demons and worked other miracles. Learning of the young man’s virtuous life, Bishop Philetus of Melitoupolis educated him and ordained him presbyter.

In 325, during the reign of Constantine the Great, Archbishop Achilles of Cyzicus made him bishop of the city of Lampsacus (Asia Minor). In the city were many pagans, and the saint fervently began to spread the faith in Christ, confirming it through many miracles and by healing the sick.

The people began to turn from their pagan beliefs, and the saint went to the emperor Constantine the Great seeking permission to tear down the pagan temple and build a Christian church in its place. The emperor received the saint with honor, gave him a decree authorizing the destruction of the pagan temple, and provided him with the means to build a church. Returning to Lampsacus, Saint Parthenius had the pagan temple torn down, and built a beautiful church of God in the city.

In one of the razed temples, he found a large marble slab which he thought would be very suitable as an altar. The saint ordered work to begin on the stone, and to move it to the church. Through the malice of the devil, who became enraged at the removal of the stone from the pagan temple, the cart overturned and killed the driver Eutychian. Saint Parthenius restored him to life by his prayer and shamed the devil, who wanted to frustrate the work of God.

The saint was so kind that he refused healing to no one who came to him, or who chanced to meet him by the wayside, whether he suffered from bodily illnesses or was tormented by unclean spirits. People even stopped going to physicians, since Saint Parthenius healed all the sick for free. With the great power of the name of Christ, the saint banished a host of demons from people, from their homes, and from the waters of the sea.

Once, the saint prepared to cast out a devil from a certain man, who had been possessed by it since childhood. The demon began to implore the saint not to do so. Saint Parthenius promised to give the evil spirit another man in whom he could dwell. The demon asked, “Who is that man?” The saint replied, “You may dwell in me, if you wish.”

The demon fled as if stung by fire, crying out, “If the mere sight of you is a torment to me, how can I dare to enter into you?”

An unclean spirit, cast out of the house where the imperial purple dye was prepared, said that a divine fire was pursuing him with the fire of Gehenna.

Having shown people the great power of faith in Christ, the saint converted a multitude of idol-worshippers to the true God.

Saint Parthenius died peacefully and was solemnly buried beside the cathedral church of Lampsacus, which he built.

Venerable Luke of Hellas

Saint Luke of Hellas was a native of the Greek village of Kastorion. The son of poor farmers, the saint from childhood had toiled much, working in the fields and shepherding the sheep. He was very obedient to his parents and very temperate in eating. He often gave his own food and clothing to the poor, for which he suffered reproach from his parents. He once gave away almost all the seed which was needed for planting in the fields. The Lord rewarded him for his charity, and the harvest gathered was greater than ever before.

As a child, he prayed fervently and often. His mother saw him more than once standing not on the ground, but in the air while he prayed.

After the death of his father, he left his mother and went to Athens, where he entered a monastery. But through the prayers of his mother, who was very concerned about him, the Lord returned him to his parental home in a miraculous manner. He spent four months there, then with his mother’s blessing he went to a solitary place on a mountain called Ioannou (or Ioannitsa). Here there was a church dedicated to the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian, where he lived an ascetical life in constant prayer and fasting. He was tonsured there by some Elders who were on pilgrimage. After this, Saint Luke redoubled his ascetic efforts, for which the Lord granted him the gift of foresight.

After a seven years on Ioannou, the saint moved to Corinth because of an invasion of the Bulgarian armies. Hearing about the exploits of a certain stylite at Patras, he went to see him, and remained for ten years to serve the ascetic with humility and obedience. Afterwards, the saint returned again to his native land and again began to pursue asceticism on Mount Ioannou.

The throngs of people flocking there disturbed his quietude, so with the blessing of his Elder Theophylactus, Saint Luke went with his disciple to a still more remote place at Kalamion. After three years, he settled on the desolate and arid island of Ampelon because of an invasion of the Turks. Steiris was another place of his ascetic efforts. Here brethren gathered to the monk, and a small monastery grew up, the church of which was dedicated to the Great Martyr Barbara. Dwelling in the monastery, the saint performed many miracles, healing sicknesses of soul and of body.

Foreseeing his end, the saint confined himself in a cell and for three months prepared for his departure. When asked where he was to be buried, the monk replied, “Throw my body into a ravine to be eaten by wild beasts.” When the brethren begged him to change these instructions, he commanded them to bury his body on the spot where he lay. Raising his eyes to heaven, he said, “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!”

Saint Luke fell asleep in the Lord on February 7, 946. Later, a church was built over his tomb. Myrrh flowed from his holy relics, and many healings occurred.

1,003 Martyrs of Nicomedia

1003 Martyrs at Nicomedia, were servants of the four dignitaries Bassos, Eusebius, Eutychius and Basilides, who suffered for Christ with their wives (January 5) in the year 303 during the reign of the emperor Diocletian (284-305).

After the martyric death of their masters, the servants decided to follow their example, and they also confessed themselves Christians before Diocletian. Swayed neither by persuasion nor promises nor rewards, 1003 men, women, and small children were cut down by soldiers who formed a tight circle around them so that none of them remained alive.

Martyr Aule

Saint Aule suffered martyrdom in London during Diocletian’s persecution of Christians.

Daily Readings for Monday, February 06, 2023

PHOTIUS THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

NO FAST

Photius the Great, Patriarch of Constantinople, Bucolus, Bishop of Smyrna, Barsanuphius the Great and John of Gaza, Afterfeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, Ilyan of Homs

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 7:26-28; 8:1-2

Brethren, it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect for ever. Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord.

JOHN 10:9-16

The Lord said, "I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

The fourth day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 6.

Saint Bucolus, Bishop of Smyrna

Saint Bucolus, Bishop of Smyrna, was a disciple of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Theologian, and became the first Bishop of Smyrna (Asia Minor).

By the grace of God, Saint Bucolus converted many of the pagans to Christ and baptized them. As a wise and experienced guide, he defended his flock from the darkness of heresy.

He died in peace between the years 100-105. He entrusted his flock to Saint Polycarp (February 23), one of the Apostolic Fathers, who was also a disciple of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. At the grave of Saint Bucolus grew a myrtle tree, which healed the sick.

Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople

Saint Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, “the Church’s far-gleaming beacon,” lived during the ninth century, and came from a family of zealous Christians. His father Sergius died as a martyr in defense of holy icons. Saint Photius received an excellent education and, since his family was related to the imperial house, he occupied the position of first state secretary in the Senate. His contemporaries said of him: “He so distinguished himself with knowledge in almost all the secular sciences, that it rightfully might be possible to take into account the glory of his age and compare it with the ancients.”

Michael, the young successor to the throne, and Saint Cyril, the future Enlightener of the Slavs, were taught by him. His deep Christian piety protected Saint Photius from being seduced by the charms of court life. With all his soul, he yearned for monasticism.

In 857 Bardas, who ruled with Emperor Michael, deposed Patriarch Ignatius (October 23) from the See of Constantinople. The bishops, knowing the piety and extensive knowledge of Photius, informed the emperor that he was a man worthy to occupy the archpastoral throne. Saint Photius accepted the proposal with humility. He passed through all the clerical ranks in six days. On the day of the Nativity of Christ, he was consecrated bishop and elevated to the patriarchal throne.

Soon, however, discord arose within the Church, stirred up by the removal of Patriarch Ignatius from office. The Synod of 861 was called to end the unrest, at which the deposition of Ignatius and the installation of Photius as patriarch were confirmed.

Pope Nicholas I, whose envoys were present at this council, hoped that by recognizing Photius as patriarch he could subordinate him to his power. When the new patriarch proved unsubmissive, Nicholas anathematized Photius at a Roman council.

Until the end of his life Saint Photius was a firm opponent of papal intrigues and designs upon the Orthodox Church of the East. In 864, Bulgaria voluntarily converted to Christianity. The Bulgarian prince Boris was baptized by Patriarch Photius himself. Later, Saint Photius sent an archbishop and priests to baptize the Bulgarian people. In 865, Saints Cyril and Methodius were sent to preach Christ in the Slavonic language. However, the partisans of the Pope incited the Bulgarians against the Orthodox missionaries.

The calamitous situation in Bulgaria developed because an invasion by the Germans forced them to seek help in the West, and the Bulgarian prince requested the Pope to send his bishops. When they arrived in Bulgaria, the papal legates began to substitute Latin teachings and customs in place of Orthodox belief and practice. Saint Photius, as a firm defender of truth and denouncer of falsehood, wrote an encyclical informing the Eastern bishops of the Pope’s actions, indicating that the departure of the Roman Church from Orthodoxy was not only in ritual, but also in its confession of faith. A council was convened, censuring the arrogance of the West.

In 867, Basil the Macedonian seized the imperial throne, after murdering the emperor Michael. Saint Photius denounced the murderer and would not permit him to partake of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Therefore, he was removed from the patriarchal throne and locked in a monastery under guard, and Patriarch Ignatius was restored to his position.

The Synod of 869 met to investigate the conduct of Saint Photius. This council took place with the participation of papal legates, who demanded that the participants sign a document (Libellus) condemning Photius and recognizing the primacy of the Pope. The Eastern bishops would not agree to this, and argued with the legates. Summoned to the council, Saint Photius met all the accusations of the legates with a dignified silence. Only when the judges asked him whether he wished to repent did he reply, “Why do you consider yourselves judges?” After long disputes, the opponents of Photius were victorious. Although their judgment was baseless, they anathematized Patriarch Photius and the bishops defending him. The saint was sent to prison for seven years, and by his own testimony, he thanked the Lord for patiently enduring His judges.

During this time the Latin clergy were expelled from Bulgaria, and Patriarch Ignatius sent his bishops there. In 879, two years after the death of Patriarch Ignatius, another council was summoned (many consider it the Eighth Ecumenical Council), and again Saint Photius was acknowledged as the lawful archpastor of the Church of Constantinople. Pope John VIII, who knew Photius personally, declared through his envoys that the former papal decisions about Photius were annulled. The council acknowledged the unalterable character of the Nicean-Constantinople Creed, rejecting the Latin distortion (“filioque”), and acknowledging the independence and equality of both thrones and both churches (Western and Eastern). The council decided to abolish Latin usages and rituals in the Bulgarian church introduced by the Roman clergy, who ended their activities there.

Under Emperor Basil’s successor, Leo, Saint Photius again endured false denunciations, and was accused of speaking against the emperor. Again deposed from his See in 886, the saint completed the course of his life in 891. He was buried at the monastery of Eremia.

The Orthodox Church venerates Saint Photius as a “pillar and foundation of the Church,” an “inspired guide of the Orthodox,” and a wise theologian. He left behind several works, exposing the errors of the Latins, refuting soul-destroying heresies, explicating Holy Scripture, and exploring many aspects of the Faith.

Venerable Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet

Saints Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet lived during the sixth century during the reign of the emperor Justinian I (483-565). They lived in asceticism at the monastery of Abba Seridus in Palestine, near the city of Gaza.

Saint Barsanuphius was born in Egypt (the year of his birth is unknown). From his youth, he began to lead an ascetic life. Arriving at the cenobitic monastery of Abba Seridus, he built a small cell outside the monastery. Here he lived in solitude.

Later, Saint John, disciple of Saint Barsanuphius, lived in this cell for eighteen years until his death. Saint John imitated his teacher in silence, ascetic deeds and in virtue. Because of his gift of clairvoyance, he was known as “the Prophet.”

After a certain time, Saint Barsanuphius built another cell near the monastery. At the beginning of his solitude, the monastery sent him only three loaves of bread per week. He dwelt for fifty years in work and ascetic deeds.

When Patriarch Eustochios of Jerusalem heard about the ascetical life of Saint Barsanuphius, it seemed unbelievable to him. He wanted to see Barsanuphius for himself, so he and his companions tried to dig under the wall, and to enter the monk’s cell from beneath. Those attempting to enter were almost burned by flames suddenly bursting forth from the cell.

In his hermitage Saint Barsanuphius devoted himeself entirely to prayer, and he attained a high degree of spiritual perfection. We have manuscript accounts about the life, the deeds and talents of Saints Barsanuphius and John. During the lifetime of Saint Paisius Velichkovsky (November 15), they were translated into the Moldavian and Slavonic languages. The publication of these manuscripts, and also their translation into the Russian language, was done in the nineteenth century by the Elders of Optina’s Entry of the Theotokos Monastery.

The precepts of Saints Barsanuphius and John clearly show the degree of their moral perfection, and their love for people, but contain scant facts about their lives. We do not know exactly when Saint Barsanuphius died. Some sources say the year of his death was 563, others say more cautiously before the year 600.

After spending a long time in seclusion, Saint Barsanuphius thereafter and until the death of Saint John the Prophet began to serve others by instructing them on the path to salvation, as Abba Dorotheus (June 5) testifies. Saint Barsanuphius replied to questioners through Saint John, sometimes instructing him to give the answers, or even through Abba Seridus (August 13), who wrote down the saint’s answers.

In the answers of Saints Barsanuphius and John the Prophet, who were guides in the spiritual life not only for their contemporaries, but also for succeeding generations, it is clearly possible to see the monks’ gradual spiritual ascent “from strength to strength.”

By deeds of fasting, silence, guarding the heart, and unceasing prayer, Saint Barsanuphius attained the heights of humility, reasoning and fiery love. The Lord gave him the gifts of discernment, clairvoyance, and wonderworking. By the power of his prayers, he was able to free the souls of people from sins. Sometimes, he took the sins of others upon himself.

The venerable one knew the dispositions of hearts, therefore he gave advice according to the spiritual state of each person. In the Name of the Lord he raised the dead, he cast out demons, and healed incurable illnesses. Things that he blessed received divine power and grace (for example, kukol or furrow-weed took away a monk’s headache). Even the name of Abba Barsanuphius, when invoked mentally, gave help to those who called upon it.

Through the prayers of Saint Barsanuphius, God sent rain upon the earth, withdrawing His wrath from the multitudes of the people. The saint’s predictions always came true. Thus, he predicted that a certain monk, the Elder Euthymius the Silent, would be placed with him in a single grave, which indeed came to pass.Saint Barsanuphius acquired these gifts after many years of patiently enduring great temptations and illness.

(Besides the Orthodox ascetic Barsanuphius the Great, there was another Barsanuphius, a Monophysite heretic. Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, anathematized him in his “Confession of Faith,” sent to the Sixth Ecumenical Council).

We do not know when Saint Barsanuphius arrived at the monastery of Abba Seridus, nor anything about the home and family of Saint John the Prophet. Following the instructions of Saint Barsanuphius, John attained the heights of perfection, and became like his teacher in all things. Out of humility, he sent those who came to him with questions to Abba Barsanuphius.

Saint John foresaw and predicted many things, even his own death a week after the death of Abba Seridus. Abba Elian, the young igumen of this monastery, begged John to remain with him for two more weeks, in order to teach him the Rule and how to govern the monastery. Saint John fulfilled his request and died after two weeks.

Saint Barsanuphius the Great survived his disciple and friend, but after St. John's death embraced complete silence and refused to give answers to anyone. These two ascetics have left the soul-profiting book, GUIDANCE TOWARD SPIRITUAL LIFE: ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS OF DISCIPLES by the Holy Monastic Fathers Barsanuphius and John as their spiritual legacy. This book was known to many saints who lived at a later time, as evidenced by the wrings of Saint Theodore the Studite (November 11 and January 26), the hieromonk Nikon Chernogorets (+ 1060), Saint Simeon the New Theologian (March 12), and other Orthodox ascetics and writers.

Virgin Martyr Dorothy at Caesarea, in Cappadocia, and those with her

The Holy Martyr Dorothy, the Martyrs Christina, Callista and the Martyr Theophilus lived in Caesarea of Cappadocia and suffered under the emperor Diocletian in either the year 288 or 300.

Saint Dorothy was a pious Christian maiden, distinguished by her great beauty, humility, prudence, and God-given wisdom, which astonished many. Arrested upon orders of the governor Sapricius, she steadfastly confessed her faith in Christ and was subjected to tortures.

Failing to break the will of the saint, the governor sent to her two women, the sisters Christina and Callista, who once were Christians, but fearing torture, they renounced Christ and began to lead impious lives. He ordered them to get Saint Dorothy to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but just the reverse happened. Saint Dorothy convinced them that the mercy of God is granted to all who repent, so they corrected themselves and returned to Christ. The tormentors tied them back to back and burned them in a vat of tar. Through martyrdom, Christina and Callista atoned for their sin of apostasy, receiving from God not only forgiveness, but crowns of victory.

Saint Dorothy was again subjected to tortures, but she gladly endured them and accepted the death sentence. She cried out with joy, thanking Christ for calling her to Paradise and to the heavenly bridal chamber. As they led the saint to execution Theophilus, one of the governor’s counselors, laughed and said to her, “Bride of Christ, send me an apple and some roses from the Paradise of your Bridegroom.” The martyr nodded and said, “I shall do that.”

At the place of execution, the saint requested a little time to pray. When she finished the prayer, an angel appeared before her in the form of a handsome child presenting her three apples and three roses on a pure linen cloth. The saint requested that these be given to Theophilus, after which she was beheaded by the sword.

Having received the gracious gift, the recent mocker of Christians was shaken, and he confessed Christ as the true God. His friends were astonished, and wondered whether he were joking, or perhaps mad. He assured them he was not joking. Then they asked the reason for this sudden change. He asked what month it was. “February,” they replied. “In the winter, Cappadocia is covered with ice and frost, and the trees are bare of leaves. What do you think? From where do these apples and flowers come?” After being subjected to cruel tortures, Saint Theophilus was beheaded with a sword.

The relics of Saint Dorothy are in Rome in the church dedicated to her, and her head is also at Rome, in a church of the Mother of God at Trastevero.

Martyr Julian of Emesa

The Holy Martyr Julian was a native of the Phoenician city of Emesa, and he suffered in the year 312 under the emperor Maximian. He was a skilled physician, and healed illnesses not only of the body but also of the soul, and he converted many people to faith in Christ the Savior.

When they led away the holy Martyrs Bishop Silvanus, Deacon Luke and the Reader Mocius (February 29) to be eaten by wild beasts, Julian encouraged them and urged them not to fear death for the Lord. He was also arrested and put to death. His head, hands and feet were pierced with long nails.

Virgin Martyr Fausta, and Martyrs Evilasius and Maximus, at Cyzicus

Virgin Martyrs Martha and Mary, and their brother Lycarion, in Egypt

The holy virgin martyrs Martha and Mary were sisters who lived in Asia Minor, and fervently desired to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ. Once, a pagan military commander marched past their house. The sisters went out to him and loudly declared that they were Christians. At first the commander paid no attention to them, but they persistently shouted after him, repeating their confession.

They were arrested together with their brother Lykarion. All three were crucified, and during the execution their mother came to them, encouraging them in their sufferings for Christ. The sisters were pierced with spears, and Lykarion was beheaded by the sword.

Saint Arsenius of Iqalto, Georgia

Saint Arsen of Iqalto was a translator, researcher, compiler of manuscripts, hymnographer, philosopher, and a great defender of the Georgian Christian Faith. His father was Ibadi Vachnadze, a wise, learned man and a fluent speaker of the Greek language. He directed the academy at Iqalto Monastery and was an instructor of Holy King Davit the Restorer.

Few details about the life of Saint Arsen have been preserved, but we know that he lived in the 11th and 12th centuries and was a younger contemporary of Saint Eprem the Lesser. He received both his primary and higher education in Byzantium, at Mangana Monastery, which had been founded by the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1055). At the academy he completed one of his most important projects: a translation of the Byzantine historian George Hamartolus’ Chronicle. Hamartolus’ work is a nine-volume account of history from Adam to the year A.D. 842. Also at Mangana, Arsen translated a volume of dogmatic-polemical writings into Georgian and called his work Dogmatikon. In the years that followed, works translated by other authors were added to the book.

After completing his studies at Mangana Monastery, Arsen moved to the Black Mountains near Antioch to continue his labors under the guidance of Saint Eprem the Lesser. Following Saint Eprem’s repose, he returned to Mangana Monastery to continue his translations. In 1114 King Davit the Restorer summoned Arsen back to Georgia, to the Gelati Academy in the west. It was there that he translated The Nomocanon (a Byzantine collection of ecclesiastical law) from the original Greek into Georgian. Arsen later returned to Kakheti in eastern Georgia, where he founded an academy at Iqalto Monastery. He also participated in the Council of Ruisi-Urbnisi, which had been convened by King Davit the Restorer. One of King Davit’s biographers writes that he invited “Arsen of Iqalto, translator and interpreter of the Greek and Georgian languages and enlightener of many churches.”

Arsen was present at the repose of King Davit the Restorer, and it is believed that he composed the king’s epitaph:

I fed seven kings with my wealth,
Drove the Turks, Persians, and Arabs from our borders,
Moved the fish from one river to another,
And, having accomplished all these things,
Lay my hands upon my heart to die.

The “theologian, philosopher, physicist, anatomist, writer of allegories and verses, epic poet, and compiler of Church typika” Arsen was buried in Iqalto next to Saint Zenon, the founder of Iqalto Monastery.

Saint Amand, Abbot of Maastricht

No information available at this time.

Daily Readings for Sunday, February 05, 2023

SUNDAY OF THE PUBLICAN AND PHARISEE: TRIODION BEGINS TODAY

NO FAST

Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee: Triodion Begins Today, Agatha the Martyr, Polyeuktos, Patriarch Of Constantinople, Antonios the New Martyr of Athens, Theodosios, Archbishop of Chernigov, Afterfeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, Theodosios of Antioch

ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY 3:10-15

TIMOTHY, my son, you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at lconion, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

LUKE 18:10-14

The Lord said this parable, “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee Beginning of the Lenten Triodion

The Sunday after the Sunday of Zacchaeus is devoted to the Publican and the Pharisee. At Vespers the night before, the Triodion (the liturgical book used in the services of Great Lent) begins.

Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who scrupulously observed the requirements of religion: he prayed, fasted, and contributed money to the Temple. These are very good things, and should be imitated by anyone who loves God. We who may not fulfill these requirements as well as the Pharisee did should not feel entitled to criticize him for being faithful. His sin was in looking down on the Publican and feeling justified because of his external religious observances.

The second man was a Publican, a tax-collector who was despised by the people. He, however, displayed humility, and this humility justified him before God (Luke 18:14).

The lesson to be learned is that we possess neither the Pharisee’s religious piety, nor the Publican’s repentance, through which we can be saved. We are called to see ourselves as we really are in the light of Christ’s teaching, asking Him to be merciful to us, deliver us from sin, and to lead us on the path of salvation.

Two weeks before the beginning of the Fast, as part of our preparation for Great Lent, Holy Week, and Pascha, the Church prescribes the reading of Saint Mark's Gospel. From Monday to Friday the focus is on the end times, and the Savior's death and burial.

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

The third day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 5.

Martyr Agatha of Palermo in Sicily

The Holy Virgin Martyr Agatha was the fifteen-year-old daughter of rich and respected Christian parents from the city of Palermo (formerly Panormos) in Sicily. During the persecution under the emperor Decius (249-251), the city prefect of Catania, Quintianus, having heard about Agatha’s wealth and beauty, sent his soldiers after her to bring her to trial as a Christian.

At Catania they housed the saint with a certain rich woman, who had five daughters. They all attempted to tempt Saint Agatha with fine clothes, amusements and entertainment, urging her to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, but the saint disdained all these things. The more they tried to move her, the more resolute she became. She prayed that she might soon face martyrdom.

During her interrogation under Quintianus, the holy martyr was swayed neither by the flattery, nor by the threats, and she was subjected to cruel torments. They also tried to remove her breasts with metal tongs, and when this failed, they used knives.

The holy Apostle Peter appeared to her in prison and healed her wounds. Saint Agatha was led to torture again, and Quintianus was astonished to see her completely healed, with no trace of cutting. Then the torture began once more.

At this moment an earthquake took place in the city, and many buildings were destroyed. Among those killed were two of Quintianus’s advisors. The terrified inhabitants rushed to Quintianus, demanding an end to Agatha’s tortures. Fearing a revolt by the people, Quintianus sent Saint Agatha back to prison. There the martyr, offering thanks to God, peacefully surrendered her soul to the Lord.

Repose of Saint Theodosius of Chernigov

Saint Theodosius, Archbishop of Chernigov, was born in the seventeenth century at the beginning of the decade of the thirties in Podolsk governance. He was descended from a noble family, the Polonitsky-Uglitskys. His parents were the priest Nikḗtas and Maria. The saint was taught Christian piety in his parents’ home, and this piety remained with him throughout his life.

From childhood he was distinguished by a fervent love for God and zeal for the Church. The innate abilities of the youth came to light in the Kiev Brotherhood school at Kiev’s Theophany monastery. The school was flourishing at the end of the 1640s, when its rectors were Archimandrite Innocent (Gizel), and Igumen Lazar (Baranovich), who later became Archbishop of Chernigov. Among its instructors were: Hieromonk Epiphanius (Slavinetsky), Hieromonk Arsenius (Satanovsky), Bishop Theodosius (Baevsky) of Belorus, Igumen Theodosius (Saphonovich) and Meletius Dzik. These were the enlightened men of those days. The comrades of Saint Theodosius at the school would become future outstanding pastors: Simeon Polotsky, Joannicius Golyatovsky, Anthony Radivillovsky, Barlaam Yasninsky. The Kiev Brotherhood Theophany school was the chief center in the struggle of Orthodoxy against the assaults of Catholic clergy, particularly the Jesuits.

Saint Theodosius grew to spiritual maturity near the relics of Saints Anthony and Theodosius and other God-pleasers of the Kiev Caves, and he tried to imitate their holy life as much as he could. He devoted all his free time to prayer, meditation on God, and the reading of Holy Scripture.

It might be surmised that the saint did not finish the full course of studies, since the school ceased its activity for several years following the devastation of Podolia by the Poles. All his life the saint had a deep regard for the Kiev Brotherhood monastery where he was educated. In the Synodikon of the Kiev-Vydubitsk monastery is the following comment about Saint Theodosius: “He was a man of fine intellect, and generous to the Kiev Brotherhood monastery.”

Upon receiving his education, the future hierarch received monastic tonsure at the Kiev Caves Lavra with the name Theodosius, in honor of Saint Theodosius of the Caves (May 3).

Metropolitan Dionysius (Balaban) of Kiev made him archdeacon of Kiev’s cathedral of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) , and then appointed him steward of the episcopal household. Soon he left Kiev and went to the distant Krupitsky monastery near Baturino (in the Chernigov diocese), which was famed for its strict monastic life. There he was ordained to the holy priesthood, but remained there only a short time.

In 1662, Saint Theodosius was appointed Igumen of the Korsun monastery in Kiev diocese, and in the year 1664 he was made head of the ancient Kiev-Vydubitsky monastery. This monastery had fallen into the hands of the Uniates and Poles at the beginning of the seventeenth century and was in complete ruin. Thanks to the energy and initiative of Saint Theodosius, the Vydubitsky Mikhailovsk monastery was quickly restored.

He was particularly concerned with the order of church services. He formed an excellent choir, which was famed not only in Little Russia, but also in Moscow. Saint Theodosius sent his singers to Moscow in 1685 to instruct their choirs in Kievan chant.

As a strict ascetic himself, Saint Theodosius was concerned with the spiritual growth of his monks. He founded a small skete on the island of Mikhailovschina, not far from the monastery, for brethren wishing to live in solitude. He appointed the hieromonk Job (Opalinsky), one of the most zealous monks of his monastery, to organize and administer the skete.

Saint Theodosius had to live through some quite difficult days, enduring many sorrows. He and other Igumens were accused by Bishop Methodius of Mstislav and Orshansk of betraying Russia in a supposed correspondence with the enemies of Russia.

On September 20, 1668 Saint Theodosius explained the matter. On November 17, 1668 the lie was exposed, and Saint Theodosius together with the other Igumens were vindicated. Archbishop Lazar (Baranovich) esteemed the high spiritual qualities of Saint Theodosius and befriended him. He called him “a sheep of the flock of Christ, teaching by humility,” and he prophetically expressed the wish that the name of Saint Theodosius might be inscribed in Heaven.

When Archbishop Lazar became locum tenens of Kiev’s Metropolitan See in 1689, he appointed Saint Theodosius as his vicar in Kiev, while he remained at Chernigov. In his capacity as vicar of the locum tenens of the Kiev Metropolitan See, Saint Theodosius had an active role in many churchly events. In 1685 he participated with the right of a decisive vote in the election of Bishop Gideon (Chetverinsky) as Metropolitan of Kiev, and he was sent to Moscow with news of this event with Igumen Jerome (Dubin) of Pereyaslavl . In Moscow, both representatives were received with honor and esteem. Indeed, the result of this delegation was the reuniting of the Kiev Metropolitan See with the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1688 Saint Theodosius was appointed archimandrite of Chernigov’s Eletsy monastery, replacing the deceased Archimandrite Joannicius (Golyatovsky). In appointing Saint Theodosius, Archbishop Lazar told him to spare no effort in placing the Eletsy monastery in good order. This monastery had not yet been set aright after the expulsion of the Jesuits and Dominicans, and it was in great disorder.

Through the efforts of Saint Theodosius, in his two or three years as igumen, the monastery’s revenues and properties increased, the church of the Dormition was repaired, and the Elets Icon (February 5) was enshrined there.

In his new position, the saint also assisted Archbishop Lazar in many important matters. He participated in drafting a conciliar reply to Patriarch Joachim of Moscow in response to his questions about the attitude of the Kiev Metropolitan See to the Council of Florence, and its judgment on the question of the transformation of the Holy Gifts as accepted by this Florentine Council. When the Patriarch proved to be unsatisfied by these answers, the Baturino Igumen Saint Demetrius (the future Metropolitan of Rostov) was sent to him at the beginning of 1689. Saint Theodosius journeyed with him as the representative of Archbishop Lazar. He was entrusted with the delivery of a letter to the Patriarch, and to clear up the misunderstandings.

Because of his poor health, Archbishop Lazar wished to see Saint Theodosius consecrated to the episcopate, seeing in the saint a worthy successor to himself. On September 11, 1692 the election of Saint Theodosius as Archbishop of Chernigov was confirmed, and he was consecrated in the Dormition cathdral of the Moscow Kremlin two days later.

Little information regarding Saint Theodosius’s administration of the Chernigov diocese has been preserved. The saint worked incessantly to raise the level of true Christian piety in his flock. He also focused on maintaining old monasteries, and founding new communities.

At the very beginning of his episcopate, the the Pecheniksk women’s monastery was established with his blessing, and he himself consecrated the monastery church in honor of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos.

In 1694, a skete was founded near Liubech. The same year, at the Domnitsky men’s monastery, the saint consecrated a temple in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. In the summer of 1695, he consecrated a majestic temple in honor of the Most Holy Theotokos, on the summit of Boldino Hill, near the ancient monastery of Saint Elias. Under Saint Theodosius there was a special enthusiasm for and strengthening of monasticism in the Chernigov diocese.

The saint also devoted much attention to the clergy, and he tried to choose worthy candidates for the priesthood. He also encouraged the pastoral education of the Chernigov clergy. He invited learned monks from Kiev, among whom was Saint John (Maximovitch), the future Metropolitan of Tobolsk (June 10), and also a helper and successor of Saint Theodosius in organizing the Chernigov clergy school.

Strict uprightness in regard to clergy and flock, deep compassion, concern and Christian love of peace were distinguishing features in the activity of Saint Theodosius. Not only did the Orthodox turn to him for help and advice, but even persons of other confessions.

Saint Theodosius did not remain with his Chernigov flock very long. Sensing the approach of death, he summoned the administrator of the Briansk Svensk monastery, Saint John (Maximovitch), and appointed him Archimandrite of the Chernigov Elets monastery.

Saint Theodosius died on February 5, 1696, and was buried in Chernigov’s Saints Boris and Gleb cathedral church, in a special crypt near the right cleros. His successor Saint John (Maximovitch), who was healed of a grievous illness by Saint Theodosius, later placed a stone plaque over his grave with a poetic inscription in gratitude for the saint’s help. The special grace which Saint Theodosius attained is shown by his ascetic life and his assistance to all who turn to him in prayer.

The glorification of Saint Theodosius occurred on September 9, 1896.

Martyr Theodula of Anazarbus, and the Martyrs Helladius, Macarius and Evagrius, in Cilicia

The Holy martyr Theodula lived in the city of Anazarbus (Asia Minor) during the reign of the Roman emperors Diocletian (284-305) and Maximian (305-311). The prefect of the city, Pelagius, was a very cruel man. His servants sought out Christians throughout the entire region and brought them to trial, where which the imperial edict was read to them, and they were ordered to worship idols.

One day they brought to him a Christian woman named Theodula. She was afraid, not so much of the tortures, but that she might be defiled by the pagans, and so she had offered them much gold. However, the servants would not accept the gold, and they brought her before the prefect. Pelagius asked her name and he ordered her to worship the pagan gods. He threatened her with cruel tortures if she refused. Saint Theodula replied, “I am a Christian. My very name means ‘servant of God,’ and so people call me Theodula. I worship the One True God and will not worship a mere stone.”

Pelagius became furious and he gave orders to begin the tortures. The Lord granted Theodula His help, and she did not feel any pain. Pelagius, however, said this was done by the gods, who had spared Theodula in the hope that she would turn to them.

Saint Theodula said to the prefect, “Where are your gods, who spare me? Show them to me, that I might show honor to them.” They brought her into the temple of the “deified” Roman emperor Hadrian, whom they regarded as a mighty god. The saint however, in praying to the One True God, merely blew a breath at the idol, and it crumbled into dust. Seeing this, Pelagius trembled with fright. If the idol’s destruction was reported to the emperor, he himself would be thrown to the wild beasts. He fell down at the feet of Saint Theodula, begging her to restore the idol, and promised to accept Christianity.

The saint prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ, and the idol again stood in its place, whole and intact. The prefect Pelagius, however, not only did not keep his promise to become a Christian, but instead he began to torture the martyr with an even greater fury.

During these torments a certain fellow named Helladius came up to the prefect, and looking at the captives, he asked to be given the maiden Theodula, promising to make her worship the pagan gods, doing this because he wanted to ingratiate himself with the city prefect and to receive honors.

Helladius subjected Saint Theodula to harsh torments, exceeding Pelagius in cruelty. The saint prayed that God would grant her the ability to persevere. She immediately received help from God and was healed. The tormentor was awestruck, and Saint Theodula admonished him. “Become a Christian,” she said, “and attain eternal honors in the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall judge both the living and the dead and render to each man according to his deeds.”

By her prayers and her words, Saint Theodula led Helladius to the knowledge of truth. He believed in Christ and confessed the True God before the prefect. He also received the crown of martyrdom. They cut off his head with a sword, and threw his body into the sea.

Saint Theodula was thrown into a blazing oven, but she remained unharmed. After this, they stretched her out on a metal plate. They poured boiling tar, wax and oil on her, but the red-hot plate shattered into pieces, and the fire scorched many people, including the city prefect Pelagius, who indeed died of fright, but Saint Theodula remained unharmed.

Seeing such a miracle, many people believed in Christ, among whom were the respected citizens Macarius and Evagrius. The pagans continued to torture Christians. They heated an oven and threw Saint Theodula, Macarius, Evagrius and many others who believed in Christ into it. They all suffered martyrdom, and were translated into life immortal.

Icon of the Mother of God “Seeker of the Perishing”

From time immemorial the Russian people, with faith in the all-powerful help of the Most Holy Theotokos, considered the title “Seeker of the Perishing” to refer not only to those who are dying, but to those whose souls are in danger of spiritual death.

There are no reliable accounts of the origin of the “Seeker of the Perishing" Icon. There are, however, several wonderworking icons of this name, through which the Theotokos showed her mercy to persons at the very brink of death.

In the mid-eighteenth century, in the village of Bor (Kaluga Gubernia), the pious peasant Theodotos Obukhov lost his way in a blizzard on the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism. The horse became exhausted and paused on the edge of an impassable ravine. Seeing no way to save himself, Obukhov lay down in his sleigh, where he began to freeze.

In these terrible moments, he prayed with all his being, asking the Queen of Heaven for help, and he vowed that if he were rescued he would have a copy of the “Seeker of the Perishing” Icon painted and donate it to his parish church. She heard his prayer and helped him in a marvelous way. A certain peasant in the nearby village heard a voice outside his window saying, “Take him.” He went out and saw the half-frozen Obukhov on his sleigh. When he recovered his health, Obukhov fulfilled his vow and commissioned a copy of the Icon from the Saint George church in the city of Volkhov (Orlov Gubernia). From that time the Bor “Seeker of the Perishing” Icon was glorified by many manifestations of grace and miracles.

There are other “Seeker of the Perishing” Icons: one manifested itself in 1770 in the village of Malizhino (Kharkov Gubernia), and delivered the people from cholera three times. There was another in the village of Krasnoe (Chernigov Gubernia), and another from Voronezh and Kozlov (Tambov Gubernia). In the year 1835, at the Moscow Alexandrov Orphanage Institute, a church was dedicated to the “Seeker of the Perishing” Icon.

Of particular interest is the “Seeker of the Perishing” Icon in the Church of the Glorious Resurrection in Moscow. This Icon had been transferred from the church of the Nativity of Christ to the Palashev alley. Its final owner had become widowed and was on the verge of complete poverty. Fervent prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos saved him from despair and arranged matters for his daughters. This man felt that he was not worthy to have this wonderworking Icon in his house, so he gave it to the church.

In 1812 the Palashev church was pillaged by the French. The desecrated Icon was found among the rubble, broken into three pieces. After the Icon was found, numerous miracles of healing took place. Brides entering into marriage pray before this Icon so that their marriage might be a happy one. People come to it, overwhelmed by drunkenness, perishing in poverty, or suffering from illness, and they turn to the Icon in prayer as to a Mother with her perishing children.

The Icon has several names. In Slavonic it is called «Взыскание погибших» (Recovery of the Perishing, Seeker of the Perishing, Seeker of the Lost). In Greek it is known as "Ἡ τῶν ἀπολωλότων ἀναζήτησις" (Seeker of the Perishing).

Icon of the Mother of God “Elets-Chernigov”

The Elets-Chernigov (Chernigov Spruce Tree) Icon of the Mother of God appeared on a spruce or fir tree near Chernigov in the year 1060, in the time of Prince Svyatoslav Yaroslavich, as was recorded in the Synodikon of Bishop Zosimus Prokopovich of Chernigov (1655-1657). The icon was placed in a church built in honor of the Elets-Spruce Icon of the Mother of God. Saint Anthony (July 10), while living an ascetical life on the Boldino Heights (1068-1069), had given his blessing to found a monastery at this place.

In 1238 the monastery was pillaged by the Tatars (Mongols), but the icon was hidden inside the monastery walls. In the year 1470, Prince Simeon Olelkovich of Kiev restored the monastery, and they placed the icon in the church.

The ultimate fate of the icon is unclear. According to one tradition, a descendant of the Chernigov princes, Baryatinsky, carried the icon to Moscow in the year 1579, when Chernigov fell into the hands of the Polish King Stephen Bathory. In 1687, Prince Daniel Baryatinsky was returning from a campaign in the Crimea. At Kharkov he fell seriously ill, and before his death he bequeathed the Elets Icon to the nearby Kharkov Dormition church.

According to another tradition, the icon vanished from the monastery when it was sacked in the seventeenth century by the forces of Sigismund III. In 1676, Prince Constantine Ostrozhsky presented the Elets monastery a copy of the Elets Icon of the Mother of God, brought from Vladimir by the Kozel brothers. Archimandrite Joannicius (Golyatovsky) was at this time restoring the monastery and he described numerous miracles of this icon in his book, “Skorbnitsa” (or “Sokrovischnitsa”, i.e. “Consoler” or “Treasury”), published in 1676 in Novgorod.

There is still another Elets Icon of the Mother of God, also appearing in the year 1060. It received its name because it appeared in the city of Elets, in a cathedral church dedicated to the Smolensk Icon of the Mother of God. The feastday of this icon was set for January 11.

Icon of the Mother of God “Divnogorsk”

The Divnogorsk-Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God received the first part of its title from where it was enshrined when it was glorified: the Dormition monastery of Divnogorsk, in the former Ostrogozhsk district in Voronezh governance. Its title of “Sicilian” comes from its place of origin, since by tradition this icon at Diva (i.e. “Wondrous Heights”) was brought from Sicily by the pious monastic Elders Xenophon and Joasaph. They suggest that these saints were Orthodox Greeks by birth, and that they had arrived there not earlier than the end of the fifteenth century. Xenophon and Joasaph founded a monastery at a scenic spot above the River Don, near the confluence of the River Tikha Sosna [Quiet Pine River]. The place was called Wondrous Heights by those struck by the form of the chalk columns throughout the hills.

It is said that Xenophon and Joasaph lived in a cave (where later the church of Saint John the Forerunner was built), and that they carved out the first church in a chalk column, into which also they put the Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God which they had brought with them. Here is where they found their eternal repose.

On the Divnogorsk-Sicilian Icon of the Mother of God, the Theotokos is depicted sitting in the clouds. In Her right hand is a white lily blossom, and with Her left arm She supports the Divine Infant, Who sits upright upon Her knees. The Savior holds a lily blossom in His left hand, and blesses with His right hand. Around the face of the Mother of God are eight angels. The two beneath are shown on bended knee and with hands upraised in prayer. Over the head of the Theotokos is the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

The special glorification of the icon began in the year 1831, when cholera was raging. At Korotoyak, 7-8 versts from the monastery, the Most Holy Virgin appeared (as She is depicted in the Divnogorsk Icon) to a certain elderly woman, Ekaterina Kolomenska, in a dream. She commanded that Her icon be brought and a Molieben be served before it. The wonderworking icon was brought to Korotoyak, and after a Molieben before the holy icon, the cholera ceased.

By the intercession of the Mother of God, the city of Ostrogozhsk also was saved from cholera. The people of Korotoyak and Ostrogozhsk were also saved from cholera in 1847 and 1848 through the miraculous intercession of the Mother of God, which occurred after a church procession around these towns with the holy icon.

According to Tradition, the feastday of the wonderworking icon on February 5 was established already at its original habitation by Xenophon and Joasaph.

Daily Readings for Saturday, February 04, 2023

SATURDAY OF PUBLICAN AND PHARISEE

NO FAST

Isidore of Pelusium, Nicholas the Confessor, Hieromartyr Abramius, John the Righteous, Bishop of Irinopolis, Theodosios the Righteous, Joseph the New Martyr of Aleppo, Afterfeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple

ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO TIMOTHY 2:11-19

TIMOTHY, my son, the saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself.Remind them of this, and charge them before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will eat its way like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaios and Philetos, who have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is past already. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: "The Lord knows those who are his, " and, "Let every one who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.

LUKE 18:2-8

The Lord said this parable, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.'” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily.”

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

The second day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord falls on February 4.

Venerable Isidore of Pelusium

Saint Isidore of Pelusium lived during the fourth-fifth centuries. He was a native of Alexandria, and was raised among pious Christians. He was a relative of Theophilus, Archbishop of Alexandria, and of his successor, Saint Cyril (January 18). While still a youth he quit the world and withdrew to Egypt to Mount Pelusium, which became the site of his monastic efforts.

Saint Isidore’s spiritual wisdom and strict asceticism, combined with his broad learning and innate knowledge of the human soul, enabled him to win the respect and love of his fellow monks in a short time. They chose him as their head and had him ordained a priest (the earliest sources for his life, however, say nothing of him being an igumen).

Following the example of Saint John Chrysostom, whom he had managed to see and hear during a trip to Constantinople, Saint Isidore devoted himself primarily to Christian preaching, that “practical wisdom” which, in his own words, is both “the foundation of the edifice and the edifice itself”, while logic is “its embellishment, and contemplation its crown”.

He was a teacher and a willingly provided counsel for anyone who turned to him for spiritual encouragement, whether it was a simple man, a dignitary, a bishop, the Patriarch of Alexandria, or even the emperor. He left behind about 10,000 letters, of which 2,090 have survived. A large portion of these letters reveal profound theological thought and contain morally edifying interpretations of Holy Scripture. Saint Photius (February 6) calls Isidore a model of priestly and ascetical life, and also a master of style.

Saint Isidore’s love for Saint John Chrysostom resulted in his support of Saint John when he was persecuted by the empress Eudoxia and Archbishop Theophilus. After the death of Saint John, Saint Isidore persuaded Theophilus’ successor Saint Cyril to inscribe the name of Saint John Chrysostom into the Church diptychs as a confessor. Through the initiative of Saint Isidore the Third Ecumenical Council was convened at Ephesus (431), at which the false teaching of Nestorius concerning the person of Jesus Christ was condemned.

Saint Isidore lived into old age and died around the year 436. The Church historian Evagrius (sixth century) writes of Saint Isidore, “his life seemed to everyone the life of an angel upon the earth.” Another historian, Nikēphóros Callistus (ninth century), praises Saint Isidore thus: “He was a vital and inspired pillar of monastic rules and divine vision, and as such he presented a very lofty image of most fervent example and spiritual teaching.”

Right-believing George the Great Prince of Vladimir

Holy Great Prince George was a son of Great Prince Vsevolod, nicknamed “Big Nest.” He was born in the year 1189, and he assumed the great princely throne of Vladimir in 1212. He was distinguished for his military valor and his piety. In the year 1237 the Tatar (Mongol) Horde of Batu descended upon the Russian land. Saint George was compelled to leave the capital city in charge of his sons, and went north to meet up with the other princes.

On March 4, 1238 the Battle at the River Sita was fought, in which the Tatars destroyed the small but valiant company of the Great Prince. The saint himself fell in this fight, and Bishop Cyril buried his body at the Rostov cathedral. Two years later, it was transferred to Vladimir’s Dormition cathedral with great solemnity.

The Church glorification of the saint occurred in 1645.

Venerable Cyril the Wonderworker, Abbot of Novoezersk, Novgorod

Saint Cyril of New Lake was born into a pious family. The Lord marked him as one of the chosen even before he was born. Cyril’s mother was praying in church during the Divine Liturgy, and the infant in her womb cried out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth!”

From the time of his childhood the saint was fond of solitude and prayer, and he dreamt of monastic life. At fifteen years of age Cyril secretly left his parental home, intending to enter the Pskov Caves monastery. He did not know the way to the monastery, and took nothing from home for the journey. He went his way, putting all his trust in the Lord and His All-Pure Mother. Twenty versts from the city the youth met a magnificent monastic Elder, who led him to the monastery. As he left, he blessed him with the words, “May God bless you, my child, and grant you the angelic schema, and may you be a chosen vessel of the Divine Spirit.” Having said this, the Elder became invisible. The boy realized that this had been a messenger from God, and he gave thanks to the Lord.

The igumen Saint Cornelius (February 20) saw with his clairvoyant eye the grace manifest in the young man. He provided him with much guidance and tonsured him into the monastic schema with the name Cyril. The fifteen-year-old monk astonished the brethren with his efforts. He emaciated the flesh through fasting and prayer, and zealously fulfilled obediences. Day and night he was ready to study the Word of God. Even then he thought to end his days in solitude in the wilderness.

The boy’s parents mourned him as one dead, but once an Elder of the monastery of Saint Cornelius came to them and told them about their son and his life at the monastery. The joyful news confirmed in Cyril’s mother her love for God. She spoke with her husband about leaving to the monastery her portion of the inheritance, then left the world and became a nun with the name Elena (Helen). She died in peace a short time later.

The saint’s father came to the monastery, and Igumen Cornelius told Cyril to meet with him. The saint was troubled, but not daring to disobey the igumen, he fell down at his father’s feet, imploring forgiveness for secretly leaving home. The father forgave his son, and he himself remained at the monastery. Saint Cornelius tonsured him into monasticism with the name Barsanuphius, and gave him to his son for instruction.

Three years later, he peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. His son continued to toil more fervently for the Lord, disdaining his own will, and in was obedient not only to the igumen, but also to the brethren. He thirsted to go about all the Russian land, venerating its holy shrines and to find for himself a wilderness place for a life of silence.

With the blessing of Saint Cornelius, Saint Cyril left the monastery in which he had grown strong spiritually, and he went to the coastal regions, roaming through the forests and the wild places, eating tree roots and berries. The saint spent about twenty years in this difficult exploit of wanderer, and he went to the outskirts of Moscow, Novgorod and Pskov, but he never entered any house nor did he accept alms. He wandered about during the day, and spent his nights at prayer on church porches, and he attended the church services.

Once while at prayer, Saint Cyril saw a heavenly light indicating the direction where he should found a monastery. He set off on his way at once, and having reached the Tikhvin monastery, he spent three days and three nights there in ceaseless prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos. The Mother of God appeared to him in a dream. Showing Her approval of him, She said, “My servant Cyril, pleaser of the Most Holy Trinity, go to the Eastern region of White Lake, and the Lord My Son will show you the place of rest for your old age.”

The saint proceeded to White Lake, weeping copious tears at the miraculous vision. On the lake he saw a small island, from which a pillar of fire rose up to the sky. There, beneath a centuries-old spruce tree, Saint Cyril built a hut, and then set up two cells: one for himself, the other for future brethren. The hermit also constructed two small churches, one in honor of the Resurrection of Christ and the other in honor of the Mother of God Hodēgḗtria. He underwent many temptations from invisible enemies, and from idlers roving about, but he overcame everything by brave endurance and constant prayer. News of his holy life spread everywhere, and brethren gathered around him.

There were many instances of healing through his prayers, and the Lord also granted His saint the gift of foresight. Sensing his impending end, Saint Cyril summoned the brethren. With tears of humility the saint instructed his spiritual children one last time, until his voice gave out. For a long time then he was silent, but suddenly he cried out with loud sobbing, “I go to the Lord unto life eternal, but I entrust you to God the Word and His Grace, bestowing an inheritance and sanctification upon all. May it help you. But I beseech you, do not become lax in fasting and prayers, guard yourself from the snares of the Enemy, and the Lord in His ineffable mercy will not condemn your humility.”

Having said this, the saint gave a final kiss to the brethren, received the Holy Mysteries, signed himself with the Sign of the Cross, and with the words “Glory to God for everything!” he gave up his pure soul to the Lord on February 4, 1532.

Venerable Abraham and Coprius, of Pechenga

Saints Abraham and Coprius of Pechenga in 1492 founded the Savior wilderness monastery at the River Pechenga, in Gryazovetsk district, 21 versts from Vologda. It required great work to bring in the necessities to the wilderness spot, in order to build the monastery and set everything in proper order. The blessed toilers did not spare themselves, zealously living in asceticism until their death.

Martyr Jadorus

Saint Jadorus suffered martyrdom with Saint Isidore (not Isidore of Pelusium) in the reign of Decius (249-251).

Hieromartyr Abramius, Bishop of Arbela in Assyria

The Hieromartyr Abramius, Bishop of Arbela, suffered during a persecution against Christians in Persia under the emperor Sapor II. When they demanded that the saint renounce Christ and worship the sun, he answered, “How foolish to forsake the Creator and instead worship creatures! Isn’t the sun just a creation of my God?”

After this, they fiercely beat and tortured him. Saint Abramius prayed during torture, echoing the words of the Savior: “Lord, do not count this sin against them, for they know not what they do!” The hieromartyr was beheaded by the sword in the village of Felman.

Venerable Nicholas the Confessor, Abbot of Studion

Saint Nicholas the Confessor, Igumen of the Studion Monastery, lived during the ninth century. He was born on the island of Crete in the village of Kedonia into a Christian family. When he was ten, his parents sent him to Constantinople to his uncle, Saint Theophanes (October 11), who was a monk at the Studion monastery. With the approval of Saint Theodore (November 11), the head of the Studion monastery, the boy was enrolled in the monastery school. When he finished school at sixteen years of age, he was tonsured a monk. After several years, he was ordained a priest.

During this time there was a fierce persecution, initiated by the Byzantine emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820), against those who venerated the holy icons. Saint Nicholas and Saint Theodore the Studite were repeatedly locked up in prison, tortured in various ways, and humiliated. However, they zealously continued to defend Orthodoxy.

Under the holy Empress Theodora (February 11), who ruled the realm while her son Michael was still a minor, icon veneration was restored, and a time of relative peace followed. Saint Nicholas returned to the Studite monastery and was chosen its head. But this calm did not last very long.

The Empress Theodora was removed from the throne, and the emperor’s uncle, Bardas, a man who defiled himself by open cohabitation with his son’s wife, came to power. The attempts of Patriarch Ignatius (October 23) to restrain the impiety of Bardas proved unsuccessful. On the contrary, he was deposed from the patriarchal throne and sent into exile.

Unwilling to witness the triumph of iniquity, Saint Nicholas left Constantinople. He spent seven years at various monasteries. Later on, he returned as a prisoner to the Studite monastery, where he spent two years imprisoned, until the death of the emperor Michael (855-867) and Bardas. When the emperor Basil I the Macedonian (867-886) ascended the throne, Saint Nicholas was set free, and again became igumen on the orders of the emperor. Because of his life as a confessor and ascetic he received from God the gift of healing, which continued even after his repose in the year 868.

Saint Evagrisi, disciple of Saint Shio

Saint Evagrisi was born to God-fearing and pious parents who read the Holy Scriptures to him from the earliest years of his childhood. When he reached manhood, Evagrisi became ruler of Tsikhedidi.

One day Evagrisi went hunting in the Sarkineti Mountains where Shio of Mgvime had settled. While he was hunting, his companions dispersed in various directions, and he was left alone to survey his surroundings. There he beheld a bird, resembling a dove, on its way to bring food to Fr. Shio, and noted the place where it landed.

The next day he located the hermit’s cave dwelling.

Astonished at Fr. Shio’s strict asceticism, Saint Evagrisi was filled with holy envy, having a desire to emulate the hermit, and he told him, “God is truly alive. I will not leave you, I will not go back.” Saint Shio advised him to be wary of such an impulsive decision, since it would be quite difficult for a man who had grown up in luxury to suddenly begin a new life in the wilderness. But Evagrisi answered him firmly, “Even if it means I must die here with you today, I will not depart from this place.”

In order to test his faith, Saint Shio entrusted Evagrisi with his staff and instructed him, saying, “Put my staff in the Mtkvari River; it will part the water and clear a path for you to cross. Secure your home and return to me. On your return when you reach the Mtkvari, use my staff again to clear a path for yourself. If it fails, then continue on your way as before. That would mean that it is not God’s will to fulfill your desire.”

Evagrisi obediently took Saint Shio’s staff and touched it to the water of the Mtkvari. The river parted, and he crossed confidently to the other side.

Having returned to the palace, Evagrisi distributed all his possessions to the poor, secured his home, and set off again to find Fr. Shio. He performed the same miracle on his return: the river parted in two, and the faithful Evagrisi passed through.

Fr. Shio tonsured Evagrisi into the monastic life, and the former ruler settled near the holy father’s cave. There he learned to be patient and watchful and how to pray, while acquiring other virtues as fruits of his ascetic labors.

Saint Shio anticipated that the number of monks in the wilderness would multiply, and he built a church for them in a place that God had revealed. The great gifts of the holy fathers were soon made known, and many pilgrims journeyed to the Sarkineti Mountains to receive their blessings. When King Parsman heard, belatedly, that his beloved army chief had been tonsured a monk, he became sorrowful and personally traveled to Saint Shio’s wilderness. His hope was to bring Evagrisi back into the world, but the blessed father responded with monastic composure: “O King! Why are you disturbing me, a man born to serve God, by asking me to become like a dog who returns to his own vomit (c.f. Prov. 26:11)?”

The news of Saint Shio, Evagrisi, and the other holy strugglers spread throughout Georgia, and many laymen were inspired to enter the monastic life.

After many years Saint Shio grew old, and he gathered the brotherhood of monks around him. “You must choose one from among you to lead this community. From now on I will labor in the well that I have prepared for my grave,” he told them. The brothers were exceedingly sorrowful at having to part with their beloved teacher, and in vain they pleaded with him to remain at the monastery. At last they asked Fr. Shio to appoint a successor, and he chose Evagrisi as the monastery’s next abbot.

The humble, gracious Evagrisi objected to this appointment, considering himself unfit to fulfill such a difficult responsibility. He begged Saint Shio to reconsider his decision, but the elder simply responded, “If you consent to our will, you will receive a joyous reward from God: when He returns in His glory, He will repay you for your obedience.”

At last Saint Evagrisi accepted his teacher’s counsel, and he directed the monastery’s activity with the help of God from that day forward.

Daily Readings for Friday, February 03, 2023

AFTERFEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR IN THE TEMPLE

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

Afterfeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, The Synaxis of the Holy and Righteous Symeon the God-Receiver and the Holy Prophetess Anna, Stamatios, John, & Nicholas, New Martyrs of Spetses, Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos , Nicholas, Archbishop & Enlightener of Japan, Ansgar of Hamburg-Bremen

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 9:11-14

BRETHREN, when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

LUKE 2:25-38

At that time, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Symeon and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Symeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Afterfeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

On this first day of the Afterfeast of the Meeting of the Lord, the Church commemorates the righteous Simeon and Anna the prophetess. The following words are ascribed to Christ in Ode 9 of the Canon: “I am not held by the Elder; it is I Who hold him, for he asks Me for forgiveness.”

Holy, Righteous Simeon the God-Receiver

Righteous Simeon the God-Receiver was, according to the testimony of the holy Evangelist Luke, a just and devout man waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him (Luke 2:25). God promised him that he would not die until the promised Messiah, Christ the Lord, came into the world.

Ancient historians tell us that the Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-247 B.C.) wished to include texts of Holy Scripture in the famous Library at Alexandria. He invited scholars from Jerusalem, and the Sanhedrin sent their wise men. The Righteous Simeon was one of the seventy scholars who came to Alexandria to translate the Holy Scriptures into Greek. The completed work was called “The Septuagint,” and is the version of the Old Testament used by the Orthodox Church.

Saint Simeon was translating a book of the Prophet Isaiah, and read the words: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive in the womb, and shall bring forth a Son” (Is 7:14). He thought that “virgin” was inaccurate, and he wanted to correct the text to read “woman.” At that moment an angel appeared to him and held back his hand saying, “You shall see these words fulfilled. You shall not die until you behold Christ the Lord born of a pure and spotless Virgin.”

From this day, Saint Simeon lived in expectation of the Promised Messiah. One day, the righteous Elder received a revelation from the Holy Spirit, and came to the Temple. It was on the very day (the fortieth after the Birth of Christ) when the All-Pure Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph had come to the Temple in order to perform the ritual prescribed by Jewish Law.

When Saint Simeon beheld their arrival, the Holy Spirit revealed to him that the divine Child held by the All-Pure Virgin Mary was the Promised Messiah, the Savior of the world. The Elder took the Child in his arms and said, “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32).

There is a Christian epigram (Number 46) in “The Greek Anthology” which is addressed to Saint Simeon. It tells the righteous Elder to receive the Child Who was born before Adam, and Who will deliver Simeon from this life and bring him to eternal life. A similar idea is expressed in the Aposticha (Slavic use) for the Forefeast of the Nativity of the Lord (December 24). There the Mother of God refers to her Son as “older than ancient Adam.”

Simeon blessed the All-Pure Virgin and Saint Joseph, and turning to the Mother of God he said, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

The holy Evangelist continues: “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Aser. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband for seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not leave the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming at that very hour, also gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption at Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).

The holy righteous Simeon the God-Receiver died at a great age (Tradition says he was 360). His holy relics were transferred to Constantinople in the sixth century. His grave was seen by the Russian pilgrim Saint Anthony, the future Archbishop of Novgorod (October 8) in 1200.

Holy, Righteous Anna the Prophetess

According to Saint Luke’s Gospel, “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Aser. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband for seven years from her virginity; and she was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not leave the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And coming at that very hour, also gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption at Jerusalem” (Luke 2:36-38).

Right-Believing Prince Roman of Uglich

The Holy Right-Believing Prince Roman of Uglich, son of Prince Vladimir and Princess Photina of Uglich, and nephew of Saint Basil (Basilko) of Rostov (March 4), was born on October 1, 1235. Upon the death of his father (in 1248) and his older brother Andrew (in 1261), Saint Roman, at the age of twenty-six, took upon himself the governance of Uglich and became a father to his subjects.

He established a poor-house and took in the destitute, who came to him from everywhere. In the principality he built fifteen more churches. Saint Roman was present every day at the divine services, and he often conversed with pious monks.

After the death of his wife in 1280, he devoted himself entirely to ascetic exploits of fasting, prayer and works of righteousness. He built the city Romanov (now Tutaev) on the high bank of the Volga. The holy prince died peacefully on February 3, 1285 and was buried in the Church of the Transfiguration in Uglich.

In 1486, the relics of Saint Roman were found to be incorrupt and were transferred into the new cathedral Church of the Transfiguration. In the year 1595 with the blessing of Patriarch Job in consequence of the fame concerning miracles the relics were witnessed to by the Metropolitan (later Patriarch) Saint Hermogenes (February 17), and Saint Roman was numbered among the saints. In 1609, the holy relics were burned along with the church during an invasion by the Poles.

Prophet Azariah

The Holy Prophet Azariah1 was son of Oded (or Addo) and lived during the reign of King Asa (910-870 B.C. See 2 Chronicles 15:1) who was the son and successor of Abijah in the kingdom of Judah. Azariah came from the land of Sembatha and urged the people not to worship false “gods,” but to remain faithful to the Covenant with the Lord.

Asa worshiped the one true God, and removed the altars of foreign “gods” from his land, tearing down the pillars and cutting down their sacred groves. He told the people to seek earnestly the God of their fathers, and to obey the Law and the Commandments. After removing the pagan altars and idols from all the cities of Judah he commanded his people to fortify their cities with walls and towers.

King Asa had 300,000 warriors in Judah, and 280,000 mighty warriors in the land of Benjamin. According to the narratives of 2 Chronicles chapters 14 and 15, Zerah the Ethiopian2 went out against Judah with a million men.

Asa prayed fervently to God, asking that he might prevail, even against such overwhelming odds. The Lord smote the Ethiopians and Asa’s army pursued them and crushed them. He destroyed their towns and pillaged their cities, and then he returned to Jerusalem.

After King Asa had won the victory, the Spirit of the Lord came upon Azariah. He went out to meet Asa and said, “Hear me, King Asa, and all the people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Lord will be with you as long as you are with Him, worshiping His name and observing His commandments. When you seek Him you will find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will also forsake you.” These words ought to be esteemed by every State and by all people.

The Prophet Azariah reposed in peace and was buried in his field. In iconography he is depicted as an old man with curly hair. The name Azariah means “whom God helps.”


1 It is said that Azariah was actually son of Ananias (Tobit 5:12); perhaps an error for Zachariah the son of Addo (1 Esdras 6:1).

2 Zerah is a Hebrew name, and is not Ethiopian or Egyptian, as some have said.

Martyrs Papias, Diodorus and Claudianus, at Perge in Pamphylia

Saint Papias was martyred with Saints Claudianus and Diodorus at Perge, Pamphylia in 250.

Saint Savva of Ioannina

It is not known where Saint Savva was born. He lived a life of asceticism in the Holy Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner on an island in the lake of Ioannina around the middle of the XV century. He was the Spiritual Father of Saints Nektarios (+ 1550) and Theophanes (+ 1544), who were descended from the distinguished Apsaras family of the Byzantine Empire. They are commemorated jointly on May 17.

Saint Savva was the son of an aristocratic family, and from an early age he loved the poverty of Jesus Christ. Until his last breath, he lived as a humble and poor hermit. No one ever saw him angry, judgmental, or as a person who remembered wrongs. His heart overflowed with humility, concerning which he himself said: “Humility is the solid and indestructible cornerstone upon which the spiritual life is built.”

He was a hechycast, and his ascetical life was very strict. He prayed every night until morning. His food was plain, and he ate very little. No meat, fish, or cheese ever appeared on his table, and he never poured a drop of oil on his food.

Saint Savva reposed peacefully in 1505. When he delivered his soul to the Lord, an inexpressible fragrance arose from the tabernacle of his body. The saint was buried in the monastery of Honorable Forerunner. A holy relic of the saint is kept and revered in the Roussanou Monastery of the Transfiguration at Meteora.

Martyr Adrian at Caesarea, Cappadocia

Saint Adrian of Baneas of Caesarea in Cappadocia. suffered martyrdom under Governor Firmilianus. He was put to death by the sword, but entered into eternal life.

Martyr Eubulus at Caesarea, Cappadocia

Saint Eubulus, like Saint Adrian, was from Baneas, in Caesarea of Cappadocia. He went to Caesarea to visit Christians in prison, and was arrested by Governor Firmilianus. He was thrown to the wild beasts, and thereby received the crown of martyrdom.

Martyr Blaise of Caesarea, in Cappadocia

Saint Blaise of Caesarea lived in the third century. He was from Caesarea in Cappadocia (Asia Minor) and was a shepherd.

When a persecution against Christians began, Saint Blaise surrendered himself into the hands of the torturers. They subjected him to torture, and beat him with leather thongs, but the Lord healed his wounds. They then threw Blaise into a cauldron of boiling water, but he remained there unharmed. The pagan soldiers, seeing this miracle, came to believe in Christ.

The governor, wishing to show that the martyr remained unharmed because the water had cooled, jumped into the cauldron and died.

Having brought many to faith in Christ, Saint Blaise peacefully surrendered his soul to God. They thrust the saint’s shepherd’s staff into the ground, and it grew up into a large tree, which covered with its branches a church built over his relics.

Saint Simeon, Bishop of Polotsk and Tver

Saint Simeon, Bishop of Tver was descended from the Polotsk princes. He was the seventh bishop of Polotsk and the first bishop of the Tver diocese. The saint’s cathedra was first at Polotsk, but hostile attacks and conflicts with the Lithuanian princes, and the murder of the Polotsk prince (his relative) in 1263, compelled him to move to Tver (Prince Yaroslav Yaroslavich had become Great Prince of Russia, and he chose Tver as his ruling city).

Saint Simeon was well-disposed and kind to the down-trodden and destitute, attentive to the monastic and priestly orders, and a zealous defender of truth.

The Nikonov Chronicle relates that this holy bishop was “knowledgeable about medicine, and well versed in the books of Holy Scripture; he was a teacher, a virtuous man, concerned for the needy, widows and orphans, a defender of the down-trodden and deliverer of the oppressed.”

History preserves for us a conversation of Saint Simeon with Prince Constantine of Polotsk who, wishing to make a jest about his court, asked the saint at supper: “Where shall the courts be in that world?” Simeon answered, “Those courts shall also be where the prince is.”

The prince did not care for this, and he said, “A court might judge unjustly, and take bribes, or torture people, and is it I who do the harm?” The bishop explained to him, “If a prince is good and God-fearing, and is concerned for the people, and loves truth and he appoints good, God-fearing, intelligent and truth-loving men to his council, that prince shall be in Paradise and his court with him. If, however, a prince is without the fear of God, and is not concerned for Christians and does not think of orphans and widows, and if he appoints wicked counselors who lack integrity in order to bring him money, that prince shall be in Hell and his court with him.”

Saint Simeon died on February 3, 1289.

Saint Jacob, Archbishop of Serbia

No information available at this time.

Daily Readings for Thursday, February 02, 2023

THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR IN THE TEMPLE

NO FAST

The Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, Gabriel the New Martyr of Constantinople, Jordan the New Martyr, Agathadoros the Martyr of Cappadocia

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 7:7-17

BRETHREN, it is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. Here tithes are received by mortal men; there, by one whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him. Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life. For it is witnessed of him, ‘Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.’

LUKE 2:22-40

At that time, the parents brought the child Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons." Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Symeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him; and Symeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

The Meeting of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple

The Meeting of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ is described in the third Gospel (Luke 2:22-40). Forty days after His birth the Divine Child was brought to the Temple at Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord. According to the Law of Moses (Lev. 12:2-8), a woman who gave birth to a male child was forbidden to enter the Temple for forty days. At the end of the time of her purification, the mother went to the Temple with the child, to offer a young lamb, two turtledoves, or pigeons to the Lord as a sacrifice. The Most Holy Virgin had no need of purification, since she had given birth to the Source of purity and sanctity. Out of humility, however, she fulfilled the requirements of the Law.

At this time the righteous Elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he beheld the promised Messiah. By divine inspiration, Saint Simeon went to the Temple at the very moment when the Most Holy Theotokos and Saint Joseph had brought the Child Jesus to fulfill the Law.

Saint Simeon received the divine Child in his arms,1 and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words repeated by the Church each evening at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Saint Simeon said to the Most Holy Virgin: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

At the Temple was an 84-year-old widow, Saint Anna the Prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel (February 3), “who did not leave the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day." She arrived just when Saint Simeon met the Divine Child. She also gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all those who were looking for redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). In the icon of the Feast she holds a scroll which reads: “This Child has established Heaven and earth.”

Before Christ was born, the righteous men and women lived by faith in the promised Messiah, and awaited His coming. The Righteous Simeon and the Prophetess Anna, the last righteous persons of the Old Testament, were deemed worthy to meet Him in the Temple.

The Feast of the Meeting of the Lord is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. We have sermons by the holy bishops Methodios of Patara (+ 312), Cyril of Jerusalem (+ 360), Gregory the Theologian (+ 389), Amphilokhios of Iconium (+ 394), Gregory of Nyssa (+ 400), and John Chrysostom (+ 407). Despite its early origin, this Feast was not celebrated so splendidly until the VI century.

In 528, during the reign of Justinian, an earthquake killed many people in Antioch. Other misfortunes followed this one. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, carrying off several thousand people each day. During this time of widespread suffering, a solemn prayer service (Litia) for deliverence from evils was celebrated on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, and the plague ceased. Giving thanks to God, the Church established a more solemn celebration of this Feast.

Church hymnographers have adorned this Feast with their hymns: Saint Andrew of Crete in the VII century; Saint Cosmas Bishop of Maium, Saint John of Damascus, and Saint Germanus Patriarch of Constantinople in the VIII century; and Saint Joseph, Archbishop of Thessaloniki in the IX century.

Today we also commemorate the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos known as “the Softening of Evil Hearts” or “Simeon’s Prophecy.” The Mother of God is depicted without her Child, and seven swords piercing her breast: three from the left side, three from the right, and one from below.

A similar Icon, “Of the Seven Swords” (August 13) shows three swords on the left side and four from the right. The "Softening of Evil Hearts” Is also commemorated on August 13.

The Icon “Simeon’s Prophecy” symbolizes the fulfillment of the prophecy of the righteous Elder Simeon: “a sword shall pierce through your own soul” (Luke 2:35).

In Constantinople, the Emperors would celebrate the Feast Day at the Blakhernae church during the All-Night Vigil. This custom continued until the Fall of the Byzantine Empire.


1 For this reason, he is known as the God-Receiver (Θεοδόχος).

Daily Readings for Wednesday, February 01, 2023

TRYPHO THE MARTYR

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

Trypho the Martyr, Forefeast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Savior in the Temple, Perpetua & her Companions, Our Holy Father Basil, Archbishop of Thessolonica, Anastasios the New Martyr of Navplion, The Four Martyrs Andrianus, Polyeuktos, Plato and George who contested in Megara, Timothy the Confessor, Bridget of Ireland

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE ROMANS 8:28-39

Brethren, we know that everything works for good with those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

LUKE 10:19-21

The Lord said to his disciples, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

Forefeast of the Meeting of our Lord in the Temple

The Typikon should be consulted if the Forefeast falls on the Sunday of the Pharisee, the Publican, or Meatfare.

Because of the Forefeast of the Meeting of the Lord, the service to Saint Tryphon (February 1) may be moved to Compline or to another day, as the rector decides, unless the parish is dedicated to Saint Tryphon, or there is a particular devotion to him.

Martyr Tryphon of Lampsacus Near Apamea in Syria

The Martyr Tryphon was born in Phrygia, one of the districts of Asia Minor, in the village of Lampsacus. From his early years the Lord granted him the power to cast out demons and to heal various maladies. He once saved the inhabitants of his native city from starvation. Saint Tryphon, by the power of his prayer, turned back a plague of locusts that were devouring the grain and devastating the fields.

Saint Tryphon gained particular fame by casting out an evil spirit from the daughter of the Roman emperor Gordian (238-244). Helping everyone in distress, he asked only one thing from them: faith in Jesus Christ, by Whose grace he healed them.

When the emperor Decius (249-251) assumed the imperial throne, he began a fierce persecution of Christians. Someone reported to the commander Aquilinus that Saint Tryphon was boldly preaching faith in Christ, and that he led many to Baptism. The saint was arrested and subjected to interrogation, during which he fearlessly confessed his faith.

He was subjected to harsh tortures: they beat him with clubs, raked his body with iron hooks, they scorched his flesh with fire, and led him through the city, after iron nails were hammered into his feet. Saint Tryphon bravely endured all the torments without complaint.

Finally, he was condemned to beheading with a sword. The holy martyr prayed before his execution, thanking God for strengthening him in his sufferings. He also asked the Lord to bless those who should call upon his name for help. Just as the soldiers raised the sword over the head of the holy martyr, he surrendered his soul into the hands of God. This event occurred in the city of Nicea in the year 250.

Christians wrapped the holy body of the martyr in a clean shroud and wanted to bury him in the city of Nicea, where he suffered, but Saint Tryphon in a vision commanded them to take his body to his native land to the village of Lampsacus. Later on, the relics of Saint Tryphon were transferred to Constantinople, and then to Rome.

In Russia, Saint Tryphon is regarded as the patron saint of birds. There is a story that when Tsar Ivan the Terrible was out hunting, his falconer carelessly allowed the Tsar’s favorite falcon to fly away. The Tsar ordered the falconer Tryphon Patrikeiev to find the bird within three days, or else he would be put to death. Tryphon searched all through the forest, but without luck.

On the third day, exhausted by long searching, he returned to Moscow to the place called Marinaya Grove. Overcome with weariness, he lay down to rest, fervently praying to his patron saint, the Martyr Tryphon, for help.

In a dream he saw a youth on a white horse, holding the Tsar’s falcon on his hand. The youth said, “Take the lost bird, go to the Tsar and do not grieve.” When he awakened, the falconer actually spotted the falcon on a pine tree. He took it to the Tsar and told him about the miraculous help he received from the holy Martyr Tryphon. Grateful to Saint Tryphon for saving his life, Tryphon Patrikeiev built a chapel on the spot where the saint appeared. Later on, he also built a church dedicated to the holy Martyr Tryphon in Moscow.

The holy martyr is greatly venerated in the Russian Orthodox Church as the heavenly protector of Moscow. Many Russian icons depict the saint holding a falcon on his arm.

Martyrs Perpetua, a woman of Carthage, and the Catechumens: Saturus, Revocatus, Saturninus, Secundulus and Felicitas

The Holy Martyrs Perpetua, Felicitas and those with them. Vibia Perpetua was from a patrician family, and lived in Carthage. She came to believe in Christ, and was baptized after her arrest as a Christian. A few days later, the twenty-two-year-old woman was taken to prison with her infant son. Arrested with her were her brother Saturus, the servants Felicitas, Revocatus, Saturninus and Secundulus, who were also catechumens.

Despite the exhortations of her father, who persistently appealed to her maternal feelings, the widowed Saint Perpetua refused to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods.

Before their execution, Saints Perpetua and Saturus had visions from God, which strengthened their souls. Saint Felicitas, who was eight months pregnant, gave birth to a baby girl while in prison. She rejoiced because now she would be permitted to die with her companions. There was a law forbidding the execution of pregnant women.

The martyrs were led from the prison into the amphitheatre. Saturninus and Revocatus had to face a leopard and a bear. Saints Perpetua and Felicitas were brought to the arena in nets, and they were pitted against a wild heifer. After being tossed to the ground by the heifer, the two women were led out of the arena. Saturus was bitten by a leopard, but did not die. The martyrs were then led to a certain spot to be killed by the sword. The young gladiator who was to execute Saint Perpetua was inexperienced and did not kill her with the first blow. She herself took his hand and guided it to her throat, and so she received the crown of martyrdom. This occurred in about the year 203.

The amphitheatre where these saints perished is located a few miles from the city of Tunis. In 1881, a room was discovered opposite the modern entrance into the arena. Some say this was a cell where the victims waited to be brought into the arena.

Venerable Peter the Hermit of Galatia Near Antioch, in Syria

Saint Peter of Galatia lived during the IV-V century, and came from the region of the Black Sea. From a young age was distinguished by his fervent piety and his determination to acquire spiritual treasures. When he was seven years old, he went to Galatia and then to Palestine, where his faith grew even stronger. During the second quarter of the IV century, He lived an ascetical life in the mountains, which had been glorified by so many great spiritual athletes and teachers of Christianity.

Saint Peter was able to perform miracles, just as Christ did, so that even his garments had miraculous power, just as the Apostle Paul's handkerchiefs and aprons did (Acts 29:22). It did not take long for his spiritual fruits to be noticed, and many people came to him, reaping valuable advice and solace for the wounds of their souls, which were very difficult to cure.

Because of his great virtue, he also received from God the gift (charism, χάρισμα) of having demons subject to him. He delivered a possessed man named Daniel from the demons, whom he instructed in asceticism, and then accepted him as his co-struggler.

Later, he healed the mother of the historian Bishop Theodoret of Cyrrhus, a devout woman who suffered from an incurable disease in one eye. Hearing about Saint Peter's gift of working miracles, she hoped that he would heal her of this terrible affliction. Theodoret's mother was only twenty-three years old when she went to see him. She was very beautiful, and she wore a lot of make-up, an expensive silk dress, and gold bracelets on her arms, as well as gold rings in her ears. When the holy monk looked at her, he discerned some good soil (Matthew 13:8) in her for a word of profitable instruction, but decided that first he would cure her fondness for fine clothing.

He said, "My child, just as a painter who does not paint according to the rules of his art, but as he pleases, insults the art of painting, so do those who cover their faces with red, white, or black paint, offend the Creator; for in this way they seem to accuse Him of imperfection in His creation, but He has the power to do as He wishes. As the Prophet-King David wrote: 'All that the Lord willed, He created' (Psalm 134/135:6). He gives to everyone everything that is useful, and nothing which is harmful. Do not disfigure the divine image created by God."

The monk's words fell on fertile ground and produced good fruit. The young woman fell at the ascetic's feet and begged him to pray for her and to heal her. Saint Peter replied, "If you have firm faith in God's help, you will be cured of your illness; for God is always ready to grant the petitions of a believing soul."

Then he placed his hand on the afflicted eye and, making the Sign of the Cross, he healed her.

The Saint once blinded a city magistrate, who wanted to rape a certain nun, thereby preventing him from carrying out his unholy desire. Saint Peter performed many other great miracles, as Bishop Theodoret (who wrote his Life) relates.

After living in a God-pleasing manner for ninety-nine years, Saint Peter surrendered his soul to God and received the reward for his spiritual and ascetical labors in the year 429 at the age of 95 (or 99, according to other sources).

In Greek usage, Saint Peter is commemorated on November 25. He should not be confused with the other Saint Peter of Galatia, who lived during the IX century, and is commemorated on October 9.

Venerable Vendemianus the Hermit of Bithynia

Saint Vendemianus (Bendemianus) was born in Myzia. In his youth he was a disciple of Saint Auxentius, one of the Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. He went to the monastery founded by Saint Auxentius (February 14) on Mount Oxia, not far from Chalcedon (Asia Minor), where he lived in asceticism for forty-two years at the cell of his teacher in the crevice of a cliff. He spent his life in fasting and prayer, and was tempted by demons. Because of his holy life and spiritual struggles, the saint was granted the gift of healing. He died around the year 512.

Venerable Brigid (Bridget) of Ireland

Saint Brigid, “the Mary of the Gael,” was born around 450 in Faughart, about two miles from Dundalk in County Louth. According to Tradition, her father was a pagan named Dubthach, and her mother was Brocessa (Broiseach), one of his slaves.

Even as a child, she was known for her compassion for the poor. She would give away food, clothing, and even her father’s possessions to the poor. One day he took Brigid to the king’s court, leaving her outside to wait for him. He asked the king to buy his daughter from him, since her excessive generosity made her too expensive for him to keep. The king asked to see the girl, so Dubthach led him outside. They were just in time to see her give away her father’s sword to a beggar. This sword had been presented to Dubthach by the king, who said, “I cannot buy a girl who holds us so cheap.”

Saint Brigid received monastic tonsure at the hands of Saint Mael of Ardagh (February 6). Soon after this, she established a monastery on land given to her by the King of Leinster. The land was called Cill Dara (Kildare), or “the church of the oak.” This was the beginning of women’s cenobitic monasticism in Ireland.

The miracles performed by Saint Brigid are too numerous to relate here, but perhaps one story will suffice. One evening the holy abbess was sitting with the blind nun Dara. From sunset to sunrise they spoke of the joys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and of the love of Christ, losing all track of time. Saint Brigid was struck by the beauty of the earth and sky in the morning light. Realizing that Sister Dara was unable to appreciate this beauty, she became very sad. Then she prayed and made the Sign of the Cross over Dara’s eyes. All at once, the blind nun’s eyes were opened and she saw the sun in the east, and the trees and flowers sparkling with dew. She looked for a while, then turned to Saint Brigid and said, “Close my eyes again, dear Mother, for when the world is visible to the eyes, then God is seen less clearly by the soul.” Saint Brigid prayed again, and Dara became blind once more.

Saint Brigid fell asleep in the Lord in the year 523 after receiving Holy Communion from Saint Ninnidh of Inismacsaint (January 18). She was buried at Kildare, but her relics were transferred to Downpatrick during the Viking invasions. It is believed that she was buried in the same grave with Saint Patrick (March 17) and Saint Columba of Iona (June 9).

Late in the thirteenth century, her head was brought to Portugal by three Irish knights on their way to fight in the Holy Land. They left this holy relic in the parish church of Lumiar, about three miles from Lisbon. Portions of the relic were brought back to Ireland in 1929 and placed in a new church of Saint Brigid in Dublin.

The relics of Saint Brigid in Ireland were destroyed in the sixteenth century by Lord Grey during the reign of Henry VIII.

The tradition of making Saint Brigid’s crosses from rushes and hanging them in the home is still followed in Ireland, where devotion to her is still strong. She is also venerated in northern Italy, France, and Wales.

Saint Tryphon, Bishop of Rostov

Saint Tryphon, Bishop of Rostov was head of Moscow’s Novospassky (New Savior) monastery and was confessor to Great Prince Basil the Dark. On May 23, 1462 he was consecrated as Bishop of Rostov by Metropolitan Theodosius of Moscow.

In 1466, he retired to the Savior monastery in Yaroslavl, where he died on December 30, 1468 (certain local documents indicate the year 1466). His commemoration was transferred to February 1, it seems, so that he would be honored with his namesake Saint Tryphon of Lampsacus. Saint Prochorus was also buried at this monastery, as the schemamonk Tryphon, also a Bishop of Rostov, who died in 1328 (September 7).

Icon of the Mother of God “Socola”

The Socola Icon of the Mother of God was in the church of the Transfiguration in the Orthodox Theological Seminary at the Socola Monastery in Romania. In February 1854, it became famous for the remarkable miracle of shedding tears.

After the Divine Liturgy on February 1, 1854, a frightened member of the clerical staff went to Hieromonk Isaiah, the ecclesiarch, and said that he had seen tears on the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Several of those serving ran to the church. There they all witnessed tears running down from the eyes of the Mother of God.
Bishop Philaret Skriban, the rector of the seminary, removed the Icon of the Mother of God from its frame, and carefully examined it. Believing that it may have been sprinkled with holy water for the Feast of Saint Tryphon, the bishop wiped away the tears with a towel, and put the Icon back in its place. Then, after ordering everyone to leave the church, he looked all around the church, and then locked it.

Several hours later, the seminary professors and students went into the church with the rector for Vespers, and all were amazed to see the same miraculous flow of tears from the eyes of the Theotokos depicted on the Icon. Immediately, Bishop Philaret served a Moleben and Akathist to the Mother of God. Soon, all of Romania learned of this miraculous event, and people from all parts of the country began to arrive at the Socola Monastery to venerate the newly-revealed Weeping Icon of the Theotokos. The tears sometimes flowed every day; and sometimes they appeared two, three, or four days apart. As a result, many people were able to see the actual miracle of weeping first hand, and bear witness to it. Those who did not see the actual miracle were convinced that a genuine miracle had taken place because they observed traces of the dried tears on the surface of the Icon.

During the Crimean War (1854-1856), the Principality of Moldavia was occupied by Austrian troops. General Paar, the commanding officer of the Austrian army, heard about the Socola Icon and ordered a staff officer to investigate the reported miracle and to give a report of his results. The Colonel went to the monastery and examined the Icon, which was not weeping at the time. Finding nothing unusual, he returned the Icon to its frame. Taking a lighted candle, he looked carefully at the face of the Virgin. Suddenly, two small shining tears formed in the eyes of the Mother of God, and the tears began to flow. The officer recoiled in terror, and exclaimed, “It is weeping! This is a great miracle! Fathers, pray unto God!”

The Colonel reported what had transpired to his commanding officer. His description of the miraculous flow of tears from the Icon is of unquestionable importance, for he had come to Socola Monastery with no faith that such a miracle was possible. When he left, however, he was convinced that it was an indisputable fact. His was not the only evidence that a true miracle had taken place. There were many other eyewitness accounts, including accounts by individuals whose sincerity there would be no reason to question.

Reports of the weeping Socola Icon also spread to Russia, and some people believe that the weeping icon mentioned in Tolstoy’s “War and Peace“ (Book 5, Ch. 11) may have been based on this Icon.

The account provided by Bishop Melchizedek Ştefănescu of Romania deserves particular attention. He was one of the first to witness this miracle, when he was a professor in the seminary at Socola Monastery. Reminiscing 35 years later about seeing tears flow from the eyes of the Mother of God, the Elder recalled how he had speculated about the reason for its tears. He knew that in times past there had also been such Icons, which wept from time to time, and that such events always presaged difficult trials for Christ’s Church and for the homeland.

History supported the Elder’s conclusion. Soon after the miraculous appearance of the tears, the Moldavian Principalities were subjected to severe trials. Socola Monastery also suffered great hardship. It was as important to Romanians as St. Sergius Lavra is to the Russian people.

Romania’s great religious and educational center was destroyed. The seminary was moved to Iași, and the local instructors and monastics were dispersed. Thus, where the glorious historical seminary had stood, serving for almost a century as a center of religious education, there remained only a small elementary school. When the Seminary moved from Socola to Iași in 1886, the icon was transferred to the new Metropolitan Cathedral in Iași.

The name Socola probably came from a Slavic source, from the word socola, or “hawk” (perhaps because there were many hawks near the monastery).

Saint Seririol of Wales

No information available at this time.