ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
The Apodosis of the Feast of the Holy Ascension, Nicephorus the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople, Erasmos of Ochrid & his Companion Martyrs, Demetrios the New Martyr of Philadelphia, Constantine the New Martyr of the Hagarenes
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 27:1-44; 28:1
IN THOSE DAYS, when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. And embarking in a ship of Adramyttium, which was about to sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchos, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. And putting to sea from there we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. And when we had sailed across the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found a ship of Alexandria sailing for Italy, and put us on board. We sailed slowly for a number of days, and arrived with difficulty off Cnidos, and as the wind did not allow us to go on, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. Coasting along it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.
As much time had been lost, and the voyage was already dangerous because the fast had already gone by, Paul advised them, saying, "Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives." But the centurion paid more attention to the captain and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And because the harbor was not suitable to winter in, the majority advised to put to sea from there, on the chance that somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, looking northeast and southeast, and winter there.
And when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close inshore. But soon a tempestuous wind, called the northeaster, struck down from the land; and when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven. And running under the lee of a small island called Cauda, we managed with difficulty to secure the boat; after hoisting it up, they took measures to undergird the ship; then, fearing that they should run on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and so were driven. As we were violently storm-tossed, they began next day to throw cargo overboard; and the third day they cast with their own hands the tackle of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars appeared for many a day, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.
As they had been long without food, Paul then came forward among them and said, "Men, you should have listened to me, and should not have set sail from Crete and incurred this injury and loss. I now bid you take heart; for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood by me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and lo, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we shall have to run on some island.
When the fourteenth night had come, as we were drifting across the sea of Adria, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they sounded and found twenty fathoms; a little farther on they sounded again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let out four anchors from the stern, and prayed for the day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the boat into the sea, under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, 'Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved." Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the boat, and let it go.
As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food; it will give you strength, since not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you." And when he had said this, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves. (We were in all two hundred and seventy-six persons in the ship.) And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea.
Now when it was day, they did not recognize the land, but they noticed a bay with a beach, on which they planned if possible to bring the ship ashore. So they cast off the anchors and left them in the sea, at the same time loosening the ropes that tied the rudders; then hoisting the foresail to the wind they made for the beach. But striking a shoal they ran the vessel aground; the bow stuck and remained immovable, and the stern was broken up by the surf. The soldiers' plan was to kill the prisoners, lest any should swim away and escape; but the centurion, wishing to save Paul, kept them from carrying out their purpose. He ordered those who could swim to throw themselves overboard first and make for the land, and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all escaped to land.
After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta.
At that time, Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, "As you, Father, did send me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.
I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you; and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Saint Nikēphóros the Confessor, Patriarch of Constantinople
Saint Nikēphóros was a dignitary at the court of the Empress Irene (797-802). After embracing monasticism, he became widely known for his piety. He assumed the Patriarchal Throne of Constantinople in 806 and became a zealous defender of the holy Icons. In 815, the Iconoclast Emperor Leo the Armenian (813-820) exiled him to Prokonnis, where he fell asleep in the Lord in 828.
Saint Nikēphóros left behind three writings against Iconoclasm.
In 846, the relics of Patriarch Nikēphóros were returned to Constantinople and placed in the Great Church of Hagia Sophia for one day before being transferred to and enshrined in the Church of the Holy Apostles.
New Martyr John the New of Sochi, who suffered at Belgrade
The Holy Great Martyr John the New of Sochi, lived in the fourteenth century in the city of Trebizond. He was a merchant, devout and firm in his Orthodoxy, and generous to the poor.
Once, he happened to be sailing on a ship while pursuing his trading activities. The captain of the ship was not Orthodox, but got into an argument about the Faith with Saint John. Having been vanquished by the saint’s words, the captain resolved to make trouble for him when they got to Belgrade. During the ship’s stay at Belgrade, the captain went to the city ruler, a fire-worshipper, and suggested that on his ship was a studious man who also desired to become a fire-worshipper.
The city ruler invited Saint John to join the fire-worshippers and renounce his faith in Christ.
The saint prayed secretly, calling on the help of Him Who said, “When they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what you shall speak, neither do you premeditate; but whatsoever will be given you in that hour, speak that, for it is not you that speaks, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). And the Lord gave him the courage and understanding to counter all the claims of the impious and firmly confess himself a Christian. After this, the saint was so fiercely beaten with rods that his entire body was lacerated, and the flesh came off in pieces. The holy martyr thanked God for being found worthy to shed his blood for Him and thereby wash away his sins.
Afterwards they put him in chains and dragged him away to prison. In the morning the city ruler ordered the saint brought forth again. The martyr came before him with a bright and cheerful face. The intrepid martyr absolutely refused to deny Christ, denouncing the governor as a tool of Satan. Then they beat him again with rods, so that all his insides were laid bare.
The gathering crowd could not bear this horrible spectacle and they began to shout angrily, denouncing the governor for tormenting a defenseless man. The governor, having the beating stopped, gave orders to tie the Great Martyr to the tail of a wild horse to drag him by the legs through the streets of the city. Residents of the Jewish quarter particularly scoffed at the martyr and threw stones at him. Finally, someone took a sword and cut off his head.
Saint John’s body with his severed head lay there until evening, and none of the Christians dared to take him away. By night a luminous pillar was seen over him, and a multitude of burning lamps. Three light-bearing men sang Psalms and censed the body of the saint. One of the Jews, thinking that these were Christians coming to take up the remains of the martyr, grabbed a bow and tried to shoot an arrow at them, but he was restrained by the invisible power of God, and became rigid.
In the morning the vision vanished, but the archer continued to stand motionless. Having told the gathering inhabitants of the city about the vision and what was done to him by the command of God, he was freed from his invisible bonds. Having learned about the occurrence, the ruler gave permission to bury the body of the martyr in the local church. This occurred between the years 1330 and 1340. There is some question about the year of the saint’s martyrdom. Saint Νikόdēmos of the Holy Mountain gives the year as 1642, while others say it was 1492.
The captain who had betrayed Saint John repented of his deed, and decided secretly to convey the relics to his own country, but the saint appeared in a dream to the priest of the church, and prevented this. After seventy years the relics were transferred to Sochi, the capital of the Moldo-Valachian principality, and placed in the cathedral church.
Uncovering of the relics of Venerable Juliana, Princess of Vyazma
The relics of the holy Princess Juliana of Vyazma were uncovered in 1819.
Saint Juliana’s body was buried in the Torzhok cathedral on the right side by the south doors in 1407. Later, a tomb for her relics was built at the Savior-Transfiguration cathedral, where she healed many. In connection with the glorification of Saint Juliana on June 2, 1819 a chapel was built on the right-hand side, and dedicated to her
In 1906 church was built and dedicated to Saint Juliana at the cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Lord, where previously there had been a chapel over the saint’s grave.
Saint Juliana is also commemorated on December 21.
Icon of the Mother of God of Kiev-Bratsk
The Kiev-Bratsk Icon of the Mother of God is also commemorated on September 6, May 10, and on Saturday of the Fifth Week of Great Lent.
Justin the Philosopher and Martyr and his Companions, Pyrros the Hieromartyr
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 25:13-19
IN THOSE DAYS, Agrippa the king and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, "There is a man left prisoner by Felix; and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews gave information about him, asking for sentence against him. I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up any one before the accused met the accusers face to face, and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. When therefore they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed; but they had certain points of dispute with him about their own superstition and about one Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive.
The Lord said to his disciples, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
I have said this to you in figures; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.
His disciples said, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God." Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace.
Martyr Justin the Philosopher and those with him at Rome
The Holy Martyr Justin the Philosopher was born around 114 at Sychem, an ancient city of Samaria. Justin’s parents were pagan Greeks. From his childhood the saint displayed intelligence, love for knowledge and a fervent devotion to the knowledge of Truth. When he came of age he studied the various schools of Greek philosophy: the Stoics, the Peripatetics, the Pythagoreans, the Platonists, and he concluded that none of these pagan teachings revealed the way to knowledge of the true God.
Once, when he was strolling in a solitary place beyond the city and pondering about where to seek the way to the knowledge of Truth, he met an old man. In the ensuing conversation he revealed to Justin the essential nature of the Christian teaching and advised him to seek the answers to all the questions of life in the books of Holy Scripture. “But before anything else,” said the holy Elder, “pray diligently to God, so that He might open to you the doors of Light. No one is able to comprehend Truth, unless he is granted understanding from God Himself, Who reveals it to each one who seeks Him in prayer and in love.”
In his thirtieth year, Justin accepted holy Baptism (between the years 133 and 137). From this time Saint Justin devoted his talents and vast philosophical knowledge to preaching the Gospel among the pagans. He began to journey throughout the Roman Empire, sowing the seeds of faith. “Whosoever is able to proclaim Truth and does not proclaim it will be condemned by God,” he wrote.
Justin opened a school of Christian philosophy. Saint Justin subsequently defended the truth of Christian teaching, persuasively confuting pagan sophistry (in a debate with the Cynic philosopher Crescentius) and heretical distortions of Christianity. He also spoke out against the teachings of the Gnostic Marcian.
In the year 155, when the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) started a persecution against Christians, Saint Justin personally gave him an Apology in defense of two Christians innocently condemned to execution, Ptolemy and Lucias. The name of the third remains unknown.
In the Apology he demonstrated the falseness of the slander against Christians accused unjustly for merely having the name of Christians. The Apology had such a favorable effect upon the emperor that he ceased the persecution. Saint Justin journeyed, by decision of the emperor, to Asia Minor where they were persecuting Christians with particular severity. He proclaimed the joyous message of the imperial edict throughout the surrounding cities and countryside.
The debate of Saint Justin with the Rabbi Trypho took place at Ephesus. The Orthodox philosopher demonstrated the truth of the Christian teaching of faith on the basis of the Old Testament prophetic writings. Saint Justin gave an account of this debate in his work Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.
A second Apology of Saint Justin was addressed to the Roman Senate. It was written in the year 161, soon after Marcus Aurelius (161-180) ascended the throne.
When he returned to Italy, Saint Justin, like the Apostles, preached the Gospel everywhere, converting many to the Christian Faith. When the saint arrived at Rome, the envious Crescentius, whom Justin always defeated in debate, brought many false accusations against him before the Roman court. Saint Justin was put under guard, subjected to torture and suffered martyrdom in 165. The relics of Saint Justin the Philosopher rest in Rome.
In addition to the above-mentioned works, the following are also attributed to the holy martyr Justin the Philosopher:
1) An Address to the Greeks
2) A Hortatory Address to the Greeks
3) On the Sole Government of God
Saint John of Damascus preserved a significant part of Saint Justin’s On the Resurrection, which has not survived. The church historian Eusebius asserts that Saint Justin wrote books entitled
Denunciation of all Existing Heresies and
In the Russian Church the memory of the martyr is particularly glorified in temples of his name. He is invoked by those who seek help in their studies.
The holy martyrs Justin, Chariton, Euelpistus, Hierax, Peonus, Valerian, Justus and the martyr Charito suffered with Saint Justin the Philosopher in the year 166. They were brought to Rome and thrown into prison. The saints bravely confessed their faith in Christ before the court of the prefect Rusticus. Rusticus asked Saint Justin, whether he really thought that after undergoing tortures he would go to heaven and receive a reward from God. Saint Justin answered, “Not only do I think this, but I know and am fully assured of it.”
The prefect proposed to all the Christian prisoners that they offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. When they refused he issued a sentence of death, and the saints were beheaded.
Venerable Dionysius, Abbot of Glushitsa, Vologda
Our holy Father Dionysius, a native of Vologda, was one of the greatest ascetics of Russia’s Northern Thebaid (See A. Muraviev, The Russian Thebiad of the North, Saint Petersburg, 1855), and had links to some of the most important figures of Russian monasticism, including Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9), whose portrait he painted.
Saint Dionysius spread Saint Cyril’s tradition of inner spiritual activity and love for the poor throughout the northern regions of Russia. He also combined within himself the Athonite traditions of his Elder Saint Dionysius with those of Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25 & July 5).
His Spiritual Father was Saint Dionysius the Athonite (October 18) who later became the Archbishop of Rostov. It was this saint who tonsured the younger Dionysius as a monk at the Spasso-Kameni Island Monastery, bestowing his own name upon him because he had such a great love for him. After nine years he left the monastery, with the blessing of his Elder, and went with his disciple Pachomius to a remote area known as Saint Luke, because once there had been a monastery in that place which was dedicated to the holy Apostle and Evangelist Saint Luke (October 18).
The two monks built a church and dedicated it to Saint Nicholas (December 6). Desiring even greater solitude, Saint Dionysius left Pachomius at Saint Luke’s one day in 1393 and went deeper into the Vologda forest so that he might not be deprived of an opportunity for ascetical struggles. That evening, he decided to rest for the night by the Glushitsa River. As he slept he heard the ringing of bells, which he took as a sign that he should build a monastery there. Saint Dionysius made a crude shelter for himself near a bird-cherry tree. The small, black cherries contain tannin and have a bitter-sweet taste. For this reason they are sometimes known as choke cherries, or hackberries. Saint Dionysius used to give these cherries to those who were ill, and they would then become well.
Soon disciples began to gather around the saint, not only men, but also women who thirsted for God. As disciples began to gather around him it became necessary to build cells to accomodate them. A local prince ordered woodsmen to clear a spot for the building of a monastery. Monastic cells were built, and also a small church in honor of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (October 1).
The number of monks increased, and one night Saint Dionysius had a dream where he saw a young man who told him to build a larger church. The man told him that he would always have the protection of the Mother of God.
In the morning, after Matins, he informed the brethren of his dream, and told them that they should obey the young man’s instructions. The church was built, and was adorned with icons painted by Saint Dionysius, who was an accomplished iconographer. His icon of the Dormition, which was a wonderworking icon, was given to the Monastery of the Seven Hills, which had been founded by the saint’s disciples, and was also located by the Glushitsa River.
In 1407, Prince George Boktiuzhinsky expressed his wish to donate funds for the foundation of the Glushitsa Monastery. Saint Dionysius would not allow him to do this, but he did bless him to provide food for the brethren.
When this monastery became too crowded, Saint Dionysius found an isolated place called Sosnovetsk (so named because of the large, very old pine tree which grew there) on the banks of the Glushitsa River. There he built a church in honor of Saint John the Baptist, and a few cells for those who also desired greater solitude.
The righteous one increased his ascetical efforts, standing in prayer all night, and living on bread and water. He even dug his own grave. Once he told the brethren that they were to remain at that place, but only if he was buried there. He assured them that if they stayed, they would have their reward from God. If he was not buried there, however, he declared that they should not remain. In time the Glushitsa Monastery was abandoned, but monks continued to live at the Sosnovetsk Monastery until recent times.
Saint Dionysius was the first to establish a women’s monastery with an Athonite Typikon. After a visit to Rostov, where his Elder Dionysius was now the Archbishop, he returned to his monastery and established a women’s monastery near him, dedicating it to Saint Leontius of Rostov (May 23). The monastery flourished and was a model of the monastic ideal for women.
During a time of famine, Saint Dionysius gave alms to all who came to the monastery for assistance. When the number of people increased, his alms-giving also increased. Once the steward informed him that the monastery’s supplies were almost depleted. Saint Dionysius rebuked him and said that their alms-giving would be a great help to the monks on the Day of Judgment. Giving to the poor, he said, was like lending to God Himself.
Before his death, he named his disciple Saint Amphilochius as his successor. He also heard the voice of the Mother of God, promising to protect the brethren of the monastery from every evil and necessity.
The saint’s final illness began on May 29, 1437 and it was revealed to him that he would die in three days. Early on the morning of June 1, he asked his disciple Saint Macarius to serve the Divine Liturgy so that he would be able to receive Holy Communion for the last time. After the service he called the brothers to him so that he might give them his final blessing and bid them farewell. At six A.M. his face shone with a divine radiance, and peacefully he surrendered his soul to God at the age of 74. The cell was filled with an ineffable fragrance, and Saint Amphilochius saw a crown on the head of his Spiritual Father.
Many of the disciples of Saint Dionysius also became Igumens of other monasteries. Among them are Saint Amphilochius of Glushitsa (October 12), who reposed in 1452, and Saint Gregory of Peshma (September 30), who reposed in 1451. He and Saint Dionysius had such mutual love that they seemed to be of one mind. Saint Dionysius told him, “Do good while you have the time, be true in glorifying God and doing His will.” Saint Macarius of Sosnovetsk (October 12 & May 13) was also a disciple. He completed the course of his God-pleasing life in 1480.
Saint Dionysius was buried at Sosnovetsk, in accordance with his desire. Through his holy prayers, may we also be found worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Venerable Agapitus the Unmercenary Physician of the Kiev Near Caves
Saint Agapitus of the Caves. This holy Unmercenary Physician was born at Kiev. He was a novice and disciple of Saint Anthony of the Caves, and lived during the eleventh century. If any of the monastic brethren fell ill, Saint Agapitus came to him and selflessly attended to the sick one. He fed his patient boiled herbs which he himself prepared, and the person recovered through the prayers of the saint. Many laymen also turned to the monastic physician with the gift of healing.
In Kiev at this time was an experienced Armenian physician, who was able to diagnose the nature of the illness and even accurately determine the day of death just by looking at a patient. When one of these doomed patients turned to Saint Agapitus, the grace-bearing healer gave him some food from the monastery trapeza (dining area), and the patient became well. Enflamed with envy, the physician wanted to poison Saint Agapitus, but the Lord preserved him, and the poison had no effect.
Saint Agapitus healed Prince Vladimir Monomakh of Chernigov, the future Great Prince of Kiev (1114-1125), by sending him boiled herbs. The grateful prince went to the monastery and wanted to see his healer, but the humble ascetic hid himself and would not accept gifts.
When the holy healer himself became sick, that same Armenian physician came to him and after examining him, he said that he would die in three days. He swore to became an Orthodox monk if his prediction were not fulfilled. The saint said that the Lord had revealed to him that He would summon him only after three months.
Saint Agapitus died after three months (on June 1, not later than 1095), and the Armenian went to the igumen of the Caves monastery and received monastic tonsure. “It is certain that Agapitus was a saint of God,” he said. “I well knew, that it was impossible for him to last three days in his sickness, but the Lord gave him three months.” Thus did the monk heal sickness of the soul and guide to the way of salvation.
Martyrs Shio, David, Gabriel, and Paul of Akhalkalaki in Georgia
The holy monk-martyrs Shio the New, David, Gabriel and Paul labored in the David-Gareji Wilderness at the end of the 17th century.
Saint Shio was from the village of Vedzisi in the Kartli region. His parents, Papuna and Tamar, were wealthy and highly influential people. They had eight children: five sons and three daughters. After their parents died, Shio’s brothers quarreled so intensely over their inheritance that the eldest brother finally killed the youngest.
Deeply disturbed by this tragedy, blessed Shio sought to withdraw from the vanity of the world—a world in which brother can murder brother and a son can murder his father. Shio confessed his desire to his spiritual father, and he was advised to journey to the David-Gareji Monastery and be tonsured a monk. In fact, the abbot, Fr. Onopre (Machutadze), had invited Shio to the monastery several times before, saying, “Come, brother Shio, and let us finish our lives here.”
With great joy Onopre received Shio, who was already revered by many for his faith and chastity. He directed him to a cell and clothed him as a novice.
Blessed Shio’s tireless labors, humility, and manifest love for his brothers inspired many to seek his counsel. The abbot himself often trusted Shio to administer the affairs of the monastery in his absence.
Once Fr. Onopre departed to attend to some matters outside the monastery, leaving Shio in charge. After Vespers and a meal, the exhausted brothers were settling down to rest when a band of Dagestani robbers suddenly stormed the monastery grounds. They ransacked the monastery and captured Hieromonk Shio and the monks David, Gabriel and Paul and killed them. Some of the brothers who remained tried to flee, but they were caught and brutally slain.
The cells of the David-Gareji Monastery were soaked with blood. Then the Dagestanis, yet unsatisfied, seized and destroyed nearly all the monastery’s property. They stole some of the clerical vestments, and the rest they cut in pieces and tossed in a well. Then they hacked the holy icons to pieces with their axes.
With the blessing of the catholicos and by order of the king, the mutilated relics of the holy martyrs were buried in the courtyard south of the grave of Saint David of Gareji.
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Hermias the Martyr at Comana, Eustathios, Patriarch of Constantinople, Eusebius and Haralambos the Monk-martyrs
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 23:1-11
IN THOSE DAYS, Paul, looking intently at the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God shall strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’ ” But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose; and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn in pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them and bring him into the barracks. The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified about me at Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also at Rome.”
The Lord said to his disciples, "All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me." Some of his disciples said to one another, "What is this that he says to us, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'? " They said, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We do not know what he means." Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him; so he said to them, "Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, 'A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me'? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being is born into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day, you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name.
Apostle Hermas of the Seventy
The Holy Apostle Hermas was a bishop in Philippopolis, Thrace. He was a Greek, but he spent some time in Rome. The holy Apostle Paul greets him in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 16:14). The Apostle Hermas endured much grief from the pagans for preaching the Gospel, but he died in peace.
According to Tradition, Saint Hermas is the author of The Shepherd, an instructive book based on revelations from angels.
Martyr Hermias at Comana
Holy Martyr Hermias suffered for Christ in the city of Comana during the persecution under the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161). The governor Sebastian, who was in Cappadocia to arrest Christians, urged the saint to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods, promising him honors and mercy from the emperor.
The old soldier bravely confessed his faith in Christ. After long exhortation, the governor gave orders to torture the saint. They beat him on the face so that the skin peeled from his face, and they threw him into a red-hot oven. When the oven was opened after three days, the martyr Hermias emerged from it unharmed.
The governor Sebastian ordered the sorcerer Marus to poison Saint Hermias with a potion. The poisonous drink did the saint no harm. A second goblet with even stronger poison also failed to kill the saint. The sorcerer believed in Christ the Savior, and was immediately beheaded. Saint Marus was baptized in his own blood, and received a martyr’s crown.
Saint Hermias was subjected to even more terrible tortures. They raked his body with sharp instruments, threw him in boiling oil, and gouged out his eyes, but he gave thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they suspended the martyr head downward. For three days he hung in this position.
People sent by the governor to verify his death found him alive. Struck by the miracle, they were blinded with fright and began to call out to the saint to help them. The holy martyr ordered the blind to approach him, and healed them in the Name of Jesus Christ.
In anger the governor ordered the skin flayed from the saint’s body, but he remained alive. Then the crazed Sebastian beheaded him with his own sword. Christians secretly buried the body of the martyr Hermias, whose relics bestowed numerous healings.
Martyr Philosophus at Alexandria
Holy Martyr Philosophus suffered for Christ in Alexandria during the persecution by the emperor Decius (249-251). They urged the youth to deny Christ, but he remained steadfast.
After suffering various tortures, he was placed on a soft bed, bound hand and foot, and a harlot was put in the room with him to tempt him to sin. In order not to yield to sin, the saint bit off his tongue and spit it in the harlot’s face. She was so horrified that she fled from him. The executioners, seeing the martyr’s bravery and fearlessness, beheaded the saint with a sword.
Hieromartyr Philósophos of St. Petersburg
The Hieromartyr Archpriest Philósophos N. Ornatsky was born on May 21, 1860 in the churchyard of Novaya Yerga, Cherepovets County, Novgorod Governorate,1 into the family of a village priest. One of his brothers was married to the niece of Saint John of Kronstadt. Philósophos studied first in Kirillov Theological School, and then in the Novgorod Theological Seminary. In 1885 he graduated from the St. Petersburg Theological Academy with the degree of Candidate. In the summer of 1885, Philósophos married Elena Zaozerskaya, the daughter of the former subdeacon of Metropolitan Isidore, and soon he was ordained to the priesthood.
Initially, the young priest served as rector in the church of the orphanage of the Prince of Oldenburg, where he had once taught the Law of God (catechism). From 1892 to 1912, he served as the rector of the church at the Expedition for the Procurement of State Papers. For twenty-six years he was the chairman of the Society for the Dissemination of Religious and Moral Education in the Spirit of the Orthodox Church, successfully counteracting anti-church movements.
In 1893, Father Ornatsky was elected as a member of the St. Petersburg City Duma from the clergy and held this office until 1917. He took part in the establishment of shelters in the city: orphanages and almshouses. Through his efforts in St. Petersburg and the surrounding area, twelve churches were built, the largest of which was the church of the Resurrection of Christ at the Varshavsky railway station. In addition, we should also mention the churches of Daints Peter and Paul in Lesnoy, Saint Sergius of Radonezh on Novosivkovskaya Street, Saint Seraphim of Sarov behind the Narva outpost, the church of the Forerunner on the Vyborg side, Saint Gerasimos church, and Saint Isidore of Yuriev church.
The Saint lived quite modestly, though his was a large family (he had ten children). The whole array of public titles and offices which he held for the glory of God, did not bring in any means of subsistence. As Chairman of the Temple Building Committees, large sums of money passed through his hands, yet he was obliged to give private lessons in order to feed his family.
Father Ornatsky was also the editor and censor of such metropolitan spiritual magazines as "St. Petersburg Spiritual Herald" (published from 1894), "The Christian's Rest" (1901), and "Orthodox-Russian Word" (1902).
Father Philósophos was one of the closest companions of the Hieromartyr Metropolitan Benjamin (Kazansky), of Petrograd and Gdovsk, who, when he was a student of the Theological Academy, was actively engaged in preaching activities in the working neighborhoods of St. Petersburg. Bonds of spiritual friendship also sprang up between him and His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon.
For almost twenty years, Father Philósophos was the spiritual son of Saint John of Kronstadt, who often visited him at home and blessed all his undertakings for the good of the Church. The holy pastor entrusted Father Philósophos with being an intermediary in his correspondence with Saint Theophánēs, the Recluse of Vysha.
In 1913, the Archpriest was appointed to the post of rector of the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg. During the First World War, Father Philósophos gave up his apartment to be used as an infirmary for wounded soldiers, and he and his family moved to a small state-owned room. Repeatedly, he went to the areas of hostilities, accompanying the transports with needed supplies for the soldiers, and trying with all his might to inspire and support the defenders of Russia.
His son Nicholas (born in 1886) was a military doctor who was part of the Ninth Russian Army; another son, Boris (born in 1887), was a staff captain of the 23rd Artillery Brigade, who graduated from the Konstantinov Artillery School, and fought heroically on the Austro-Hungarian front. Father Ornatsky's gift of preaching attracted those who were seeking the words of life, and he repeatedly urged his flock not to accept the corrupting ideas of Bolshevism. Knowing that Orthodoxy is at the heart of Russian life, Batiushka urged the intelligentsia to realize this. He never tired of repeating: "Our intellectuals have to become Russian."
During the Revolution, he saw his wife's sister's husband, Peter Skipetrov (+ January 20) shot before his eyes. At the funeral service, Father Philósophos gave a sermon, fearlessly denouncing the Bolsheviks. He repeatedly called upon his flock to surround the churches and to protect the shrines of their land. In January 1918, when Father Peter Skipetrov was killed at the Lavra, Father Philósophos organized a defense of the shrines of Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra, organizing Cross Processions to it from all the churches of the capital.
On August 9, 1918, he was arrested, along with his two eldest sons, Nicholas and Boris. At the time of his arrest he was absolutely impassive and calm. Parishioners gathered by the thousands and walked along Nevsky Prospekt, demanding the release of their shepherd. The Chekists received the delegation of believers, promising to do what they asked. But on the same night (July 20, 1918), Father Philósophos was transported to prison in the city of Kronstadt. Around October 30, 1918, thirty-two men were brought from different prisons, all officers of the Imperial Army, who were being taken to be shot. Some were young, and others were older. One said he was a Colonel of the Guards. He told their escorts, "You will all perish, perhaps in twenty years, but you will perish like dogs. Russia will be Russia again, but you will perish." Their escorts said nothing. As they were being led to the place of execution, Father Philósophos read aloud the prayer for the departure of the soul over his two sons and the rest of the convicts.
Some say the place of execution was in Kronstadt, while others say it was not far from the Gulf of Finland, between Ligovo and Oranienbaum. The bodies of those who were shot were dumped into the bay. Father Ornatsky's body did not sink, but was tossed onto the shore by the waves near Oranienbaum. There it was buried secretly by the inhabitants.
These Saints were canonized as New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia at the Jubilee Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church in August 2000 for general Church veneration.
Saint Philósophos is also commemorated on July 20, and on the Third Sunday after Pentecost (Movable Feast: Synaxis of the Saints of St. Petersburg.
1 Now the Cherepovetsky District of Vologda Oblast.
Metropolitan Philotheos of Tobolsk, Enlightener of Siberia
The Most Reverend hierarch, the renowned Metropolitan of Siberia and Tobolsk, was from a noble, but poor family and received a theological degree at the then famous Kiev Theological Academy.
At the end of the course, he was ordained as a priest for one of the rural churches, but he was soon widowed. He was tonsured as a monk with the name Philotheos, and joined the brotherhood of the Kiev Caves Lavra.
In Siberia Christianity began to spread among the native pagans and Mohammedans from the very conquest of this country by the Russian state (in 1581), but conversions of the Siberian non-Russians to faith in Christ were generally insignificant and mostly individual.
The newly-baptized aliens left their former places of residence and their compatriots and, settling in Russian cities and villages, they entered into the Russian population, so their conversion did not influence the masses, who still remained solid pagans or Mohammedans. All this was known to the great converter of Russia, Tsar Peter I, who decided to take measures to enlighten the Siberian aliens with the light of Christianity and with them their neighbors, the Mongols and Chinese. To implement this wise plan, by a decree of June 18, 1700, the Sovereign commanded Metropolitan Barlaam Yasinsky of Kiev to “find” in the Russian cities and monasteries Archimandrites, Igumens, and other monks to occupy the cathedra of Tobolsk, which had remained vacant after Metropolitan Ignatius. He wanted “Pastors who are not only good and adorned with a blameless life, but also scholars who would take with them to Siberia any educated monks who were capable of learning the local languages. With God’s help, and with their help, the Metropolitan of Tobolsk could gradually lead the blind inhabitants of Siberia, Mongolia and China, who were stagnating in idolatry, to the knowledge of the true God. ”
Metropolitan Barlaam’s choice fell on the Novgorod-Seversk Archimandrite Demetrios Tuptalo, later Saint Demetrios, the wonderworker of Rostov, who was summoned to Moscow in early 1700. On March 23, at the age of 50, he was consecrated as the Metropolitan of Siberia and Tobolsk. Saint Demetrios ruled his Siberian flock for only nine months, but he did not live in Siberia.
When Saint Demetrios of Rostov was appointed to the Siberian Diocese, primarily for missionary purposes, he refused to go to Siberia for good and was transferred to the cathedra of Rostov. Then Archimandrite Philotheos Leschinsky was appointed as someone who was well-known for his pious life, high education and energy. He was consecrated as Metropolitan of Siberia and Tobolsk on January 4, 1702.
The Diocese of Tobolsk and Siberia is extensive today; but in the 17th and early 18th centuries it was incomparably more extensive; its borders were then in the north – the Arctic Sea, in the east – the Pacific Ocean, in the south – lands under the Chinese emperor, i.e. Dauria and so on, and the Kirghiz-kaysati steppe, in the west – the Urals and even part of European Russia, to the fortress of Beerskaya and Achitskaya. In general, the diocese occupied more than 300,000 square miles, a space in which there are currently more than nine independent dioceses with several vicariates.
The difficulty of administering such a huge diocese was increased by its complete lack of organization. But the new bishop of Siberia, Metropolitan Philotheos, energetically set to work. In the very first year of his stay in Siberia he followed the example of the pastors of the first centuries of Christianity, and decided to assemble a spiritual council from representatives of the Siberian clergy for the improvement of the Siberian Church.
Such a council took place in Tobolsk in December 1702. It developed a number of rules and instructions to the clergy regarding the streamlining of their pastoral work.
Then, the new Metropolitan of Siberia occupied himself with the Tobolsk episcopal residence, multiplying churches in Siberia, increasing the number of clergy, improving their condition, etc. They paid great attention to widespread education, and he first set an example by teaching foreign children in the religious schools he established.
In order to provide the diocese with good pastors, Metropolitan Philotheos started a “Slavic-Russian” school in the episcopal residence, and paid for it with his own money. This became the progenitor of all educational institutions in the city of Tobolsk. He also got several learned monks from Kiev as teachers for the school. When Metropolitan Philotheos took over the administration of the Tobolsk diocese, there were only 160 churches throughout its vast area. The saint made tremendous efforts to multiply of the churches of God in Siberia, and the Lord blessed these works with success. By the time he left the diocese there were already up to 448 churches and 37 monasteries.
Building new churches, he also took care of maintaining their well-being and beauty: he asked the government for permission to renovate some of the monasteries; he stopped issuing “wax, incense, and red wine” to the congregational and unpaid churches. At the cathedral, permission was given to form a choir of singers from the exiled Little Russians.
The missionary activity of Metropolitan Philotheos among the Siberian pagans was the main subject of his cares and labors and was crowned with good success, which the archpastor achieved, however, not during his administration of the diocese, but after his release from it, when he devoted himself entirely to the apostolic ministry. The hierarch began his educational activity from Kamchatka, where in 1705 he sent a missionary, Archimandrite Martinian, and after him the missionary monk Ignatius Kozyrevsky, but the preaching of these missionaries was not particularly successful, since the missionaries had to experience many obstacles. The hierarch’s second mission was sent in 1707 to the Ostyaks of the Berezovsky Territory, and the third to Mongolia, to the Kutuhta (high priest) of the Buddhists, to the town of Khalkhas.
The preaching of the Tobolsk Metropolitan among the Ostyaks, Voguls and other Siberian aliens was particularly successful. Accompanied by an insignificant retinue, with the then impossible ways of communication, the ever-memorable missionary spent most of his archpastoral ministry in Siberia in constant journeys among savages, teaching the Samoyeds, Voguls, Ostyaks, building churches in the far north, in the Kyrgyz territory in the Altai, then enlightening the distant sons of the outskirts of Siberia, Laplanders and Chukchi, helping them spiritually and materially. During all the time of his archpastoral ministry, he enlightened and baptized up to 400,000 foreigners, not to mention how many churches this great architect built across Siberia, how many parishes he founded, how many cornerstones he laid, so to speak, for the spread of Christianity among the pagans. It was not easy for Metropolitan Philotheos. Not to mention the incredible difficulties traveling along the wild outskirts, across steppes and marshes, taiga and northern tundra; not to mention all sorts of hardships associated with traveling under such conditions; the very life of the Metropolitan was repeatedly endangered.
Once he came to the Ostyaks of Burinsky. Those who were invited to be baptized replied that they were Muslims and no one had the right to baptize them. They left him and locked themselves in one large yurt.1 His Eminence nevertheless remained in their territory and from time to time he sent them missionaries who were with him to summon the Ostyaks. These same savages, in order to put an end to the matter all at once, according to the suggestion of the Tatar preacher hiding from them, seized their weapons, and fiercely rushed at the Orthodox missionaries. One of them was wounded in the head with an arrow, the other in the shoulder, and the third was punctured through and through by their hands. In fright, the unarmed Russians all fled from the shore onto the ships. The Metropolitan, who was then praying for the restraint of his enemies, was left alone on the shore. Then the Ostyak foreman Uman fired a rifle at the Metropolitan, but God preserved His Apostle-Preacher. The bullet passed through his clothing without touching his body.
On another occasion, the Metropolitan was threatened with danger in Konda. When he stayed in the Katyshev yurts to rest, a messenger came to him from Vogulsky Prince Satyga inviting him to hasten to the nomad camp because a lot of people had gathered there, desiring to be baptized. In fact, as it turned out, Satyga was deceived by a Tatar from Tobolsk, as though the Tsar himself wanted the Metropolitan’s death, and that there would be no punishment for the murderers. He intended to kill Philotheos and all those with him. But for now, the Metropolitan avoided danger. Sataga’s envoys were received kindly by the Metropolitan, and after receiving generous gifts, they informed Philotheos of the danger that threatened him. Horror overtook the missionaries, and many advised him to flee to Tobolsk. Some, however, argued that such cowardice would impair the future work of preaching the Word of God. The Metropolitan agreed with those who wished to stay, and it was decided to sail down to the nomad camp. Satyga was frightened when he learned that his plans were known to the Metropolitan. The intruders fled into the forest, and the remaining Voguls were willingly baptized.
Metropolitan Philotheos not only cared about the spiritual enlightenment of the pagans who converted, but he also tried to deliver those or other benefits to the converts in civil matters. At his request, those who were persecuted by the unbaptized were protected from being chased by guards; newly-baptized slaves were given their freedom, and those who were included in the head tax were exempted from it. Everyone was relieved of the obligation to supply carts, and received benefits in the payment of the yasak, and they were protected from insults and harassment by the Cossacks and minor officials. The Metropolitan distributed a significant amount of bread and money to the newly-baptized poor, and, in general, he helped as much as he could, anyway. The newly-baptized loved the Metropolitan as a father. When he visited them, they immediately went out to meet him and greeted him with cordiality and pleasure clearly written on their faces; willingly they heeded his instructions, and gave a firm promise to put his advice into practice. In general, they accepted the Metropolitan as their benefactor and their protector, as a man sent from God. The memory of Metropolitan Philotheos still lives among the aliens who were enlightened by him. For example, the Ostyaks, when they were asked about him, usually said: “He was a kindly old man; the people did not give offense; he loved the Ostyaks very, very much…. ”
In 1711, Metropolitan Philotheos was relieved of the administration of the diocese “due to illness,” and retired to the Tyumen Holy Trinity Monastery, where he received the schema and the name Theodore. The Metropolitan did not give up his archiepiscopal cathedra for rest and peace, now that he was burdened with age and illnesses, but for even more difficult feats of missionary work in the harsh north of Siberia. In June 1712, Metropolitan Schema-monk Theodore, with the blessing of the then Siberian archpastor, Metropolitan John Maximovitch (June 10), by his own desire and inclination, and at the suggestion of Prince M. Gagarin, who was then the governor of Siberia, who fulfilled the command of Peter I to begin preaching the Gospel among Siberians, and personally entered into this apostolic spiritual exploit(подвиг). In that year, the hierarch made his first missionary journey to Berezovsky territory along the rivers Irtysh, Ob and Sosve. Metropolitan John, who ruled the diocese, gave him capable employees, and Prince Gagarin supplied him from the treasury with a vessel for sailing, rowers, interpreters of the native languages, a guard for preserving the mission, the sum of 2000 rubles, and various gifts for newly-baptized.
According to the ukaz of Peter the Great, the evangelizer of Siberia wished to prepare the ground of this field on his previous journey; that is, to destroy the pagan places of worship with their idols, and to show the pagans how powerless their imaginary gods are to protect even themselves. With the help of God, Metropolitan Schema-monk Theodore managed to convince the Ostyaks, who lived near Samarov and in the yurts of Sherkal, to destroy the idols which were especially honored in those districts.
On June 10, 1715, Metropolitan John Maximovich of Tobolsk reposed, and the aged Metropolitan Schema-monk Theodore was again entrusted with the administration of the Siberian Diocese, but he did not stop his favorite missionary activity. Metropolitan Schema-monk Theodore was so fond of the enlightened Ostyaks that, a year before his death, being retired and ill for the second time, the patient visited Nizovsky territory again in 1726 and even reached far off Obdorsk. But this was to be the last journey of the ever-memorable hierarch.
During his second administration of the diocese, Metropolitan Theodore paid attention to the overseas Beijing mission, which from 1714 was headed by Archimandrite Hilarion of Lezhaysk, who was sent to the capital of China by imperial command, under Metropolitan John Maximovich. Upon the death of this Archimandrite, his successor Anthony Platkovsky was appointed head of the mission, and returned to Russia in 1721, because according to the suggestion of the Most Reverend Theodore and the Siberian governor, as well as the highest levels of government, it was decided to send a bishop to Beijing.
Even during his first administration of the Tobolsk diocese, he had a vicar bishop, Barlaam Kossovsky, the Bishop of Irkutsk from 1706. He lived in Irkutsk until 1714, when he returned to Moscow, and he was soon appointed to the archiepiscopal cathedra of Tver. Metropolitan Theodore’s second tenure in the Siberian Diocese lasted for five years. In 1720, at his own request, Tsar Peter I sent him a letter granting him retirement, in which he gave thanks to the holy hierarch of God for his zealous pastoral service, especially for his tireless and successful work in the missionary field. In addition, the archpastor received a retirement pension: 200 rubles in cash, 50 quarters of bread (3000 bushels of grain) per year. The exhausted hierarch settled in the Tyumen monastery which he himself had built. On May 31, 1727, he reposed at the age of 76, among the brethren and children of the newly-baptized.
Judging by his portraits, Metropolitan Philotheos was tall, lean, with a long nose, and gray hair. As to his character, in the words of the Siberian Chronicle of Cherepanov, “he was quiet, very indulgent to all, and had very little vanity.” His life was most active and simple; in the summertime, he often used to go on foot to Tobolsk to the Ivanov monastery and fished there in the Shantalyne River.
Living alone, he taught the children of the newly-baptized to read, write, and sing in his leisure hours. Many of them lived in his cell. Sometimes he composed Church hymns; for example – the Troparion and Kontakion of the wonderworker Saint Simeon of Verkhoturye (December 18), a Canon to the martyr Basil of Mangazea (March 23),2 and others, as well as poems of religious content. With his own hand, he wrote many of the documents which he issued, especially those concerning the newly-baptized, or pertaining to the episcopal estates.
Not only the residents of Tyumen, but also those from other places in Siberia, visit the grave of the pious archpastor with reverence and offer memorial services for him.3 After the Russian Revolution, his relics were secretly reburied. On October 21, 2006, the incorrupt relics of Saint Philotheos were found in Tyumen in the Ascension-Saint George Church.
Saint Philotheos is commemorated on May 31, and also on June 10, the Synaxis of Siberian saints.
1 A yurt was a sort of tepee made from animal skins. 2 See Orthodox Life # 2, 1972. 3 Source: The Russian Pilgrim, 1900 (Русский Паломник, 1900 г.)
Saint Apollonios (Apollo) of the Egyptian Thebaid
The Venerable Apollonios was the son of the pious parents, Aisi and Amani. According to one version, he had an elder brother, a monk, who died before his birth, who appeared to him in a dream. According to other sources, his parents were childless before the birth of Apollonios.
At the age of fifteen, the Saint retired to the inner desert of the Thebaïd (in Lower Egypt), along with his kinsman Abib. After fourteen years of the solitary life, Saint Apollonios was granted a Divine Revelation. A Voice said: “Apollonios, by your hands I will destroy the wisdom of the wise men of Egypt, and I will remove their knowledge, which is not true knowledge. You will also overthrow those who are reputed to be the wise men of Babel (the Babylon of Egypt), and all their service to devils (idolatry). Now go quickly to the desert, to the region which is near the habitations of men. There you shall beget for me a holy people, who will be exalted by their good works.”
Soon he became known for the multitude of miracles which he performed. He was the head of many monks; and he directed them profitably by his spiritual instructions.
During the reign of Julian the Apostate, God commanded the Saint to go to the near desert. In a spot close to Hermopolis he founded a monastery in which about five hundred monks would gather in the future.The brethren of the Monastery partook of the Holy Mysteries in the morning, and then in the afternoon they studied the Holy Scriptures. Only after sunset did they eat a little food, and then they went off into the desert alone, “in the darkness of the night, devoting themselves to the contemplation of God and His Holy Word,” while some of the monks remained in the monastery.
The monks would eat food just once a day. Apollonios condemned those who adhered to the harsher forms of austerity – these did not cut their hair and wore chains – regarding such things as a sign of vanity. At the same time, Apollonios himself was a strict faster, he ate boiled food on Sundays, and on other days he ate only wild plants.
Once one of the monks was forcibly recruited for military service and was locked up in a prison for refusing to serve. Apollonios and some other monks visited him in the prison. They comforted him and advised him to remain steadfast. When the centurion heard about this, he became very angry and locked Apollonios and his companions in prison, posting many guards. However, an angel of the Lord appeared at midnight, to open the doors of the prison, and the monks left unhindered.
Near the monastery were ten pagan settlements. Saint Apollonios was once a witness to a pagan ritual: priests of the idols, accompanied by a crowd, carried an idol around to the villages, “raging like bacchants.” By the Saint’s prayers, the idolaters were halted and could not continue the procession. Upon learning of the cause of the incident, many of them followed Apollonios, and the idol was destroyed. After this miracle, many pagans became Christians, and some of them even remained in the monastery. Soon there were almost no pagans left in the vicinity of the monastery.
When there was strife between two villages near the monastery, Saint Apollonios managed to convert a robber (who may have been the instigator of the quarrel) to Christ, and so peace was restored.
On another occasion, Apollonios was able to prevent bloodshed between the Christian and pagan villages, punishing the leader of the pagans with a terrible death. When famine occurred at the Thebaid, Apollonios supplied the inhabitants with food.
Saint Apollonios reposed in peace around the year 395, at very advanced age.
Much of the information about Saint Apollonios was recorded in chapter 9 of Saint Jerome’s History of the Monks of Egypt. The author had visited Apollonios shortly before the latter’s repose, along with his companions. They lived in his monastery for about a week.
Sozomon also provides some details about Apollonios in Book VI, chapter 29 of his Church History, citing Timothy, the primate of the Church of Alexandria, as the source for what we know about Saint Apollonios’s personal discipline as well as his “divine and marvelous deeds.” The Coptic Church has also preserved an ancient testimony of Saint Apollonios in a description of Abba Paul’s journey from Antinoë through the monasteries of Egypt, and another account from a Jacobite Synaxarion (in Arabic). This Synaxarion under 5 Amshire (January 30) calls Apollonios “an Equal of the angels.” The Coptic Church commemorates Saint Apollonios on 25 Papo (October 22).
Isaacius, Abbot of the Monastery of Dalmatus, Macrina, grandmother of St. Basil the Great, Barlaam the Monk of Caesarea, Natalios the Martyr, Emilia, mother of Saint Basil the Great
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 21:26-32
IN THOSE DAYS, Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself with them and went into the temple, to give notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for every one of them. When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up all the crowd, and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching men everywhere against the people and the law and this place; moreover he also brought Greeks into the temple, and he has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimos the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was aroused, and the people ran together; they seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
The Lord said to his disciples, "The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them.
I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.
Venerable Isaac, Founder of Dalmátos Monastery at Constantinople
Saint Isaac lived during the IV century, received the monastic tonsure and pursued ascetic labors in the desert. During the reign of Emperor Valens (364-378), a zealous adherent of the Arian heresy, there was a persecution of the Orthodox, and churches were closed and destroyed.
Hearing of the persecution, Saint Isaac left the wilderness and went to Constantinople to console and encourage the Orthodox, and to fight against the heretics. At that time, barbarian Goths along the Danube River were making war against the Empire. They seized Thrace and advanced toward Constantinople.
When Emperor Valens was leaving the capital with his soldiers, Saint Isaac cried out, “Emperor, reopen the churches of the Orthodox, and then the Lord will aid you!” But the Emperor, disdaining the Saint's words, continued confidently on his way. The Saint repeated his request and prophecy three times. The angry Emperor ordered Saint Isaac to be thrown into a deep ravine, filled with thorns and mud, from which it was impossible to escape.
Saint Isaac remained alive by God’s help, and when he emerged he overtook the Emperor and said, “You wanted to destroy me, but three Angels pulled me from the mire. Hear me, reopen the churches for the Orthodox and you shall defeat the enemy. If you do not heed me, then you shall not return. You will be captured and burnt alive.” The Emperor was astonished at the Saint's boldness and ordered his attendants Saturninus and Victor to seize him and hold him in prison until his return.
Saint Isaac’s prophecy was soon fulfilled. The Goths defeated and pursued the Greek army. The Emperor and his Arian generals took refuge in a barn filled with straw, and the attackers set it ablaze. After news of the Emperor's death was received in Constantinople, Saint Isaac was released and honored as a prophet.
Then the holy Emperor Theodosios the Great (379-395) came to the throne. On the advice of Saturninus and Victor, he summoned the Elder, treating him with great respect. Obeying his instructions, he banished the Arians from Constantinople and restored the churches to the Orthodox. Saint Isaac wanted to return to his desert, but Saturninus and Victor begged him not to leave the city, but to remain and protect it by his prayers.
Saturninus built a monastery for Saint Isaac in Constantinople, where monks gathered around him. Saint Isaac was the Monastery’s Igoumen and spiritual guide. He also nourished laypeople, and helped many of the poor and suffering.
When he had reached an advanced age, Saint Isaac made Saint Dalmátos (August 3) Igoumen. The Monastery was later named for Dalmátos.
Saint Isaac reposed in the year 383, and his memory is also celebrated on March 22.
The Monastery of Saint Isaac in Saint Petersburg is dedicated to this Saint.
Saint Emmeleia was from a pious family of Caesarea in Cappadocia. Her father became a Martyr during the last persecutions. Her life was a good root which produced sweet fruits (her children) who emerged as prominent members of society, and most of them were also Saints of the Church, such as Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Peter of Sebasteίa, the nun Makrina, and the monk Naukratios. From a holy root come holy shoots; that is, from holy parents come blessed and holy children.
Saint Emmeleίa experienced many sorrows in her life, as is usually the case with the elect. Some of these were the death of her parents, even before she married, the death of her husband, as soon as their son Peter was born, the untimely death of her son Naukratios, and raising her children alone in the discipline and admonition of the Lord, but she faced these with exemplary faith, courage, and patience. She taught her children mainly by her own example. Along with her milk, she gave them the unadulterated milk of faith, and taught them the mysteries of the Church.
She ended her days in a Monastery, where her daughter Saint Makrina (July 19) was the Igoumeness.
Saint Emmeleίa is commemorated on January 1 in Slavic usage, and on May 30 in Greek usage.
Theodosia the Virgin-Martyr of Tyre, Theodosia, Virgin-Martyr of Constantinople, Seven New Martyrs of Kastoria, Andrew the New Martyr of Argentes, John of Smyrna the New Martyr
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 21:8-14
IN THOSE DAYS, the apostles departed and came to Caesarea; and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for some days, a prophet named Agabos came down from Judea. And coming to us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'” When we heard this, we and the people there begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “The will of the Lord be done.”
The Lord said to his disciples, "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go hence.
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
Holy Virgin Martyr Theodosίa of Tyre
Saint Theodosίa of Tyre lived during the III and IV centuries. Once, during a persecution against Christians, which had already lasted for five years, the seventeen-year-old Theodosίa visited some condemned Christian prisoners in the Praetorium at Caesarea in Palestine. It was the day of Holy Pascha, and the Martyrs were speaking about the Kingdom of God. Saint Theodosίa asked them to remember her when they appeared before the Lord.
When the soldiers saw that the girl had bowed to the prisoners, they seized her and led her before the governor, Urban. The governor urged the Saint to offer sacrifice to the idols, but she refused, professing her faith in Christ. Then she was subjected to cruel tortures; her sides and breasts were raked with iron claws until her bones were exposed. She endured this in silence with astonishing courage. Again Urban told her to sacrifice, but she mocked him saying: “Foolish man, why do you persist? Can you not see that I have received everything I prayed for, and that I am honored to share the fate of these Martyrs for Christ?"
After saying this, she was tormented even more severely than before. The holy virgin was cast into the sea with a stone tied around her neck, but Angels rescued her from the depths. Then they tossed her into the arena to be eaten by wild animals. Seeing that the beasts would not touch her, the soldiers beheaded her.
That night Saint Theodosίa appeared to her parents, who had tried to persuade their daughter not to let herself be tortured. She wore radiant garments, a crown upon her head, and held a luminous gold cross in her hand. She said to them, “Behold the great glory of which you wished to deprive me!”
The Holy Virgin Martyr Theodosίa of Tyre suffered for Christ on April 3 in the year 307 or 308. She is also commemorated on May 29 (the transfer of her relics to Constantinople, and later to Venice).
Repose of the Blessed John of Ustiug the Fool-for-Christ
Blessed John, the Fool-for-Christ and Wonderworker of Ustiug, was born in the village of Pukhovo, near Old Ustiug, of pious parents Savva and Maria. From his youth he distinguished himself by a strict life of fasting. On Wednesdays and Fridays he ate nothing, and on other days he ate only bread and water. His parents moved to the city of Orlets along the Iug River, forty versts from Ustiug. Left as a widow, the Saint’s mother was tonsured at Holy Trinity Monastery in Orlets with the monastic name Natalia. The young John began by keeping silence, and then he embraced the path of foolishness for the sake of Christ.
Going about the city of Ustiug, he lived in a hut that had been built for him, and spent his nights at unceasing prayer. By day, however, he went through the streets of the city barefoot and in rags all year long, resting sometimes on a dung heap. He endured much abuse and derision from the people of the city.
Even during his lifetime, the Saint was granted the gift of wonderworking. He reposed at a young age on May 29, 1494, and was buried near the Dormition cathedral in the city of Ustiug. Later, a church dedicated to him was built over his relics.
The Service to Blessed John of Ustiug was composed in the XVI century. His Life was written in 1554, based on the recollections of people who had known him. The holy ascetic was famed as an intercessor during the invasions of enemies, and as a healer of those afflicted with various ailments.
Blessed John of Ustiug is also commemorated on the Third Sunday after Pentecost (Synaxis of the Vologda Saints).
Virgin Martyr Theodosia the Nun of Constantinople
The Virgin Martyr Theodosia of Constantinople lived during the eighth century. She was born in answer to the fervent prayers of her parents. After their death, she was raised at the women’s monastery of the holy Martyr Anastasia in Constantinople. Saint Theodosia became a nun after she distributed to the poor of what remained of her parental inheritance. She used part of the money to commission gold and silver icons of the Savior, the Theotokos, and Saint Anastasia.
When Leo the Isaurian (717-741) ascended the imperial throne, he issued an edict to destroy holy icons everywhere. Above the Bronze Gates at Constantinople was a bronze icon of the Savior, which had been there for more than 400 years. In 730, the iconoclast Patriarch Anastasius ordered the icon removed.
The Virgin Martyr Theodosia and other women rushed to protect the icon and toppled the ladder with the soldier who was carrying out the command. Then they stoned the impious Patriarch Anastasius, and Emperor Leo ordered soldiers to behead the women. Saint Theodosia, an ardent defender of icons, was locked up in prison. For a week they gave her a hundred lashes each day. On the eighth day, they led her about the city, fiercely beating her along the way. One of the soldiers stabbed the nun in the throat with a ram’s horn, and she received the crown of martyrdom.
The body of the holy virgin martyr was reverently buried by Christians in the monastery of Saint Euphemia in Constantinople, near a place called Dexiokratis. The tomb of Saint Theodosia was glorified by numerous healings of the sick.
Icon of the Mother of God “the Surety of Sinners”
The Icon of the Mother of God “Surety of Sinners” is known by this name because of the inscription on the icon: “I am the Surety of sinners for My Son Who has entrusted Me to hear them, and those who bring Me the joy of hearing them will receive eternal joy through Me.” The Mother of God embraces Her Child, Who holds Her right hand with both His hands so that Her thumb is in His right hand, and Her small finger in His left hand. This is the gesture of one who gives surety for another.
Although we do not know when or by whom the icon was originally painted, it is believed that the basis of the icon is to be found in the Akathist to the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Rejoice, You Who offer Your hands in surety for us to God.”
This icon was first glorified by miracles at the Saint Nicholas Odrino men’s monastery of the former Orlov gubernia in the mid-nineteenth century (The “Assuage My Sorrows Icon” commemorated on October 9 is also from this monastery). The “Surety of Sinners” icon of the Mother of God was in an old chapel beyond the monastery gates, and stood between two other ancient icons. Because it was so faded and covered with dust, it was impossible to read the inscription.
In 1843 it was revealed to many of the people in dreams that the icon was endowed with miraculous power. They solemnly brought the icon into the church. Believers began to flock to it to pray for the healing of their sorrows and sicknesses. The first to receive healing was a crippled child, whose mother prayed fervently before the icon in 1844. The icon was glorified during a cholera epidemic, when many people fell deathly ill, and were restored to health after praying before the icon.
A large stone church with three altars was built at the monastery in honor of the wonderworking icon.
In 1848, through the zeal of Lt. Col. Demetrius Boncheskul, a copy of the wonderworking image was made and placed in his home. Soon it began to exude a healing myrrh, which was given to many so they might recover their health after grievous illnesses. Boncheskul donated this wonderworking copy to the church of Saint Nicholas at Khamovniki in Moscow, where a chapel was built in honor of the icon.
The “Surety of Sinners” Icon is also commemorated on March 7 and on Thursday of the week of All Saints.
Martyred Fathers and Mothers of Atchara
Atchara has been a Christian stronghold since apostolic times. It was through this region that Saint Andrew the First-called entered Georgia, preaching the Gospel for the first time in the Iberian land. In this land, in the village of Gonio, the holy relics of the martyred Apostle Matthias are buried.
Since the 16th century Atchara has been subject to constant assaults by the Turks. Having attained a victory in the Ottoman-Persian War, the Turks gained a large part of southern and western Georgia: Samtskhe, Atchara, and Chaneti were declared Turkish provinces. The invaders knew well that, in order to completely conquer the Georgian people, it was necessary to uproot Christianity. Thus they instituted a systematic campaign of forced conversion to Islam.
When they failed to achieve their goal with bribery and deception, they resorted to violence.
In his work The Islamization of Georgia, or the Spread of Islam in Western Georgia in the 17th-18th Centuries, the renowned early twentieth-century scholar Zakaria Chichinadze retold a story he had heard from one elderly Atcharan man: “In Atchara the implanting of Islam faced a powerful opposition. Many of the elderly men and the majority of women stood firmly by the Christian Faith, and even challenged and debated the Turkish mullahs…. The number of these aged men in Atchara was considerably high. In the end an order was issued: to arrest all dissidents, forcibly convert them to Islam, and execute those who resisted. Before long all the elderly Christians of Atchara were arrested and cast in prison. Then they were led to the River Atcharistsqali, to a 12th-century bridge known as the ‘Bridge of Queen Tamar.’ On that bridge the Ottomans erected a guillotine.
“They chopped off the heads of the elderly people, sent the ends of their tongues to the pasha, and threw their bodies into the river. This happened one hundred years ago, in the year 1790.”
Gallows and a guillotine were erected in the villages of Atcharistsqali, Keda, Chakvi, Khulo, Machakhela, and Gonio. The documents preserved in the manuscript collection at Akhaltsikhe Museum describe in even more horrific detail the martyrdom of the Atcharan Christians: “The human tongue is powerless to describe the tortures that the Georgians suffered in those years for confessing Christianity. While they were still alive their flesh was stripped and their bodies quartered; they were slashed to pieces with swords, their bellies ripped open; they were roasted over campfires. They were pierced with flaming rods, thrown into cauldrons of boiling water; molten lead was poured down their throats; they were tossed into pools of hot lime….”
The Georgian Apostolic Church has numbered among the saints all the holy fathers and mothers of Atchara who sacrificed their lives in defense of the Christian Faith.
Fathers of the 1st Council, Hieromartyr Eutychius, Bishop of Melitene, Nikitas, Bishop of Chalcedon, Helikonis the Martyr, Heladios the Hieromartyr of the East, Zacharias the New Martyr
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 20:16-18, 28-36
IN THOSE DAYS, Paul had decided to sail past Ephesos, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. And from Miletos he sent to Ephesos and called to him the elders of the church. And when they came to him, he said to them: "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities, and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, 'it is more blessed to give than to receive.' " And when he had spoken thus, he knelt down and prayed with them all.
At that time, Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do; and now, Father, you glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made.
I have manifested your name to the men whom you gave me out of the world; yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you; for I have given them the words which you gave me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you did send me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are mine; all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Commemoration of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council
On the seventh Sunday of Pascha, we commemorate the holy God-bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council.
The Commemoration of the First Ecumenical Council has been celebrated by the Church of Christ from ancient times. The Lord Jesus Christ left the Church a great promise, “I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mt. 16:18). Although the Church of Christ on earth will pass through difficult struggles with the Enemy of salvation, it will emerge victorious. The holy martyrs bore witness to the truth of the Savior’s words, enduring suffering and death for confessing Christ, but the persecutor’s sword is shattered by the Cross of Christ.
Persecution of Christians ceased during the fourth century, but heresies arose within the Church itself. One of the most pernicious of these heresies was Arianism. Arius, a priest of Alexandria, was a man of immense pride and ambition. In denying the divine nature of Jesus Christ and His equality with God the Father, Arius falsely taught that the Savior is not consubstantial with the Father, but is only a created being.
A local Council, convened with Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria presiding, condemned the false teachings of Arius. However, Arius would not submit to the authority of the Church. He wrote to many bishops, denouncing the decrees of the local Council. He spread his false teaching throughout the East, receiving support from certain Eastern bishops.
Investigating these dissentions, the holy emperor Constantine (May 21) consulted Bishop Hosius of Cordova (Aug. 27), who assured him that the heresy of Arius was directed against the most fundamental dogma of Christ’s Church, and so he decided to convene an Ecumenical Council. In the year 325, 318 bishops representing Christian Churches from various lands gathered together at Nicea.
Among the assembled bishops were many confessors who had suffered during the persecutions, and who bore the marks of torture upon their bodies. Also participating in the Council were several great luminaries of the Church: Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia (December 6 and May 9), Saint Spyridon, Bishop of Tremithos (December 12), and others venerated by the Church as holy Fathers.
With Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria came his deacon, Athanasius [who later became Patriarch of Alexandria (May 2 and January 18)]. He is called “the Great,” for he was a zealous champion for the purity of Orthodoxy. In the Sixth Ode of the Canon for today’s Feast, he is referred to as “the thirteenth Apostle.”
The emperor Constantine presided over the sessions of the Council. In his speech, responding to the welcome by Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, he said, “God has helped me cast down the impious might of the persecutors, but more distressful for me than any blood spilled in battle is for a soldier, is the internal strife in the Church of God, for it is more ruinous.”
Arius, with seventeen bishops among his supporters, remained arrogant, but his teaching was repudiated and he was excommunicated from the Church. In his speech, the holy deacon Athanasius conclusively refuted the blasphemous opinions of Arius. The heresiarch Arius is depicted in iconography sitting on Satan’s knees, or in the mouth of the Beast of the Deep (Rev. 13).
The Fathers of the Council declined to accept a Symbol of Faith (Creed) proposed by the Arians. Instead, they affirmed the Orthodox Symbol of Faith. Saint Constantine asked the Council to insert into the text of the Symbol of Faith the word “consubstantial,” which he had heard in the speeches of the bishops. The Fathers of the Council unanimously accepted this suggestion.
In the Nicean Creed, the holy Fathers set forth and confirmed the Apostolic teachings about Christ’s divine nature. The heresy of Arius was exposed and repudiated as an error of haughty reason. After resolving this chief dogmatic question, the Council also issued Twelve Canons on questions of churchly administration and discipline. Also decided was the date for the celebration of Holy Pascha. By decision of the Council, Holy Pascha should not be celebrated by Christians on the same day with the Jewish Passover, but on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox (which occured on March 22 in 325).
The First Ecumenical Council is also commemorated on May 29.
Saint Nikḗtas, Bishop of Chalcedon
Saint Nikḗtas, Bishop of Chalcedon, lived during the second half of the eighth century. For his God-pleasing life he was consecrated as Bishop of Chalcedon.
Saint Nikḗtas distinguished himself by his charity, he always helped the poor, he lodged travelers in his home, he cared for orphans and widows, and he interceded for those who had been wronged.
During the reign of the iconoclast Leo the Armenian (813-820), Saint Nikḗtas bravely denounced the Iconoclast heresy and urged his flock to venerate the holy icons of Christ, the Theotokos, and the saints. Saint Nikḗtas endured much suffering from the impious emperor and his like-minded cohorts. He was subjected to tortures and sent off to exile.
The holy confessor Nikḗtas died at the beginning of the ninth century. From his relics occurred many miracles of healing. The Canon of the service, written by the priest Joseph of Constantinople, also includes Saint Nikḗtas’s brother, Saint Ignatius, among the saints.
Saint Ignatius the Wonderworker, Bishop of Rostov
Saint Ignatius was Bishop of Rostov, and shepherded his flock for twenty-six years. After his death on May 28, 1288, his body was brought to the church. Some people saw him leave his coffin, and float in the air above the church. He blessed the people and the city, then went back to his coffin.
Many miracles took place at his grave.
Saint Eutychius, Bishop of Melitene
The Hieromartyr Eutychius, Bishop of Melitene, was a co-worker with the Holy Apostles, and he suffered for Christ in the city of Melitene during the first century.
Martyr Heliconis of Thessalonica
The Holy Martyr Heliconis lived during the third century in the city of Thessalonica. Saint Heliconis arrived in the city of Corinth during a persecution of Christians, and urged the pagans to stop serving senseless idols and instead to worship the one true God, the Creator of the universe.
She was arrested and brought before the governor Perinus, who vainly attempted to persuade the saint to offer sacrifice to idols, both by flattery and by threats. The holy martyr was subjected to tortures, but she bravely endured them. Then they threw her into a hot furnace, but she emerged from it unharmed, because an angel of the Lord had cooled the flames.
Thinking the saint was a sorceress, the governor invented new torments for her. They tore the skin from her head, and burned her breasts and head with fire. After halting the torture, the judge again attempted to urge Saint Heliconis to offer sacrifice to the idols, promising her honors and the title of priestess. The saint seemed to consent, and the pagan priests and the people led her to the pagan temple with the sounds of trumpet and drum.
At the saint’s request, they left her there alone. Saint Heliconis, filled with heroic strength, cast down and smashed all the idols. When some time had passed, the pagan priests entered their temple. Seeing the destruction, they were even more enraged and cursed the holy virgin shouting, “Put the sorceress to death!” They beat the holy martyr, and then they threw her into prison, where she spent five days.
Christ the Savior and the holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel appeared to the holy martyr in prison and healed her of her wounds. Finally, they sent the saint to be torn apart by wild beasts. They set loose three hungry lions upon her, but the beasts came up to the martyr meekly and lay down at her feet. The pagan mob shouted and cried, “Death to the sorceress.”
But at this point the lions jumped out of the arena and pounced on the people, who fled in terror. Not knowing what else to do, the governor ordered that Saint Heliconis be beheaded. The saint went to execution with joy and heard a Voice summoning her to the heavenly habitations.
She contested in the year 244, and her body was reverently buried by Christians.
Hieromartyr Helladius, Bishop in the East
The Hieromartyr Helladius the Bishop was thrown into fire because of his faith in Christ, but he remained unharmed. He died as a martyr from the terrible beating inflicted upon him.
In the Service to Saint Helladius it is said that the Lord Jesus Christ visited him in prison and healed him of his wounds. According to certain sources, Saint Helladius suffered under the Persians during their invasion into the Eastern part of the Roman Empire in the fourth century.
Saint Germanus, Bishop of Paris
Saint Germanus was born near Autun in 496. He was abbot of Saint Symphorian’s monastery at Autun, and was made Bishop of Paris around 536. He was tireless and courageous in his efforts to end civil strife and to restrain the viciousness of the Frankish kings, though he was not very successful in this. Saint Radegund (August 13) appealed to him for protection from her cruel husband King Chlotar I.
Saint Germanus founded a monastery at Paris, and was buried in its church after his death in 576. This is the renowned monastery of Saint Germaine-des-Pres.
Icon of the Mother of God “The Softening of Evil Hearts”
The “Softener (or “Consoler”) of Evil Hearts” Icon of the Mother of God is similar to the “Seven Arrows” Icon (August 13). It depicts the Theotokos with seven swords piercing her heart (Luke 2:35). There are three swords on the right side, three on the left, and one from below. In Holy Scripture the
number seven indicates wholeness, completeness, and fullness. In this case, it represents the fullness of sorrow, grief, and pain which the Most Holy Theotokos endured during her earthly life. The icon appears to be of Western origin.
The “Softener of Evil Hearts” Icon is also commemorated on the Sunday of All Saints.
Saint Sophronius the Bulgarian
The Venerable Sophronios (Stephen in the world) was from the village of Penkovts (Пенкьовци) in Bulgaria, and lived during the XV and XVI centuries. He was a Hieromonk at the Penkovsky Monastery near Sofia. Learning that Turkish invaders were about to attack the monastery, he fled to Vlahia (in what is now Romania) and lived in a monastery near the Danube River.
Later, the Saint devoted himself to continual ascetical labors of fasting, vigil, and prayer, in the monastic community of Rusensk, which may have been founded by Saint Joachim (January 18), the Patriarch of Trnovo.
Saint Sophronios reposed peacefully on May 28, 1510, and was known for his philanthropy and almsgiving. Some sources say that he was murdered by a servant, and that after three years his relics were found incorrupt.
New Martyr Demetrius
No information available at this time.
Icon of the Mother of God of Nicea
The Nicaea Icon of the Mother of God appeared in the city of Nicaea in Asia Minor in the year 304, as the city was under siege. One of the soldiers, whose name was Constantine, saw the Icon of the Theotokos and threw a stone at it. Then he began to trample it underfoot. That night, the Mother of God appeared in a dream to the soldier who had perpetrated this sacrilege and said: "You have insulted me most grievously, and it shall lead to your death."
The following day, during the battle, the impious man was struck in the head with a stone and fell down dead.
This event was mentioned by the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council in 325, and they ordained that the following hymn, "Your womb has become a Holy Table, which held the Heavenly Bread. Those who partake of it shall not die, as the Nourisher of all has said, O Theotokos." should be sung before the Nicaea Icon of the Mother of God.
Christ stated that He is the Bread of Life which had come down from Heaven when He spoke to the crowd at Capernaum (John 6:50).
This Theotokion is sung at Mid-Pentecost during Ode 5 of the Second Canon (Tone 8), which was composed by Saint Andrew of Crete. In some Orthodox Prayer Books, it is one of the Prayers After the Evening Meal.
The Nicaea Icon is very similar in appearance to the “Inexhaustible Chalice” Icon (May 5).
The Holy Hieromartyr Helladius, John the Russian of Evia, Theodora the Virgin-martyr & Didymos the Martyr, Venerable Bede
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 20:7-12
IN THOSE DAYS, when the apostles were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lights in the upper chamber where we were gathered. And a young man named Euthychos was sitting in the window. He sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer; and being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down and bent over him, and embracing him said, "Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him." And when Paul had gone up and had broken bread and eaten, he conversed with them a long while, until daybreak, and so departed. And they took the lad away alive, and were not a little comforted.
The Lord said to his disciples, "The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask anything in my name, I will do it. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.
I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.
Hieromartyr Therapon, Bishop of Sardis
The Hieromartyr Therapon, Bishop of Sardis suffered for Christ during the third century (the city of Sardis was in Lydia, Asia Minor). In fulfilling his priestly service, Saint Therapon enlightened many of the pagan Greeks with the light of the Christian Faith and baptized them. For this, he was brought to trial before the governor Julian and fearlessly declared himself a Christian bishop.
They threw him into prison, where he languished with hunger and thirst, and then they gave him over to cruel tortures. These torments did not break the saint’s valiant confession of faith. They led the saint off in chains to the city of Sinaion in Phrygia, and then to Ancyra.
In these cities they tortured him again. They took him to the River Astala, where they stretched him naked upon the ground, fastened to four stakes, and fiercely beat him. After this torture, they took the passion-bearer to the outskirts of the Satalia diocese, part of the Sardis metropolitanate, and here after long beatings Saint Therapon ended his martyric contest.
The stakes to which the saint had been tied, and which were soaked with his blood, put forth green shoots and grew into large trees, whose leaves were found to have curative powers. Many people received healing through them.
Translation of the relics of Venerable Nilus of Stolobensk
Saint Nilus of Stolobensk reposed on December 7, 1554 (see his Life under December 7).
Many years afterwards, hieromonk Germanus came to the island of Lake Seliger, where the holy ascetic had struggled, and immediately after him the hill-dweller and wanderer Boris. They settled together on the island and built a church in honor of the Theophany, with a chapel dedicated to Saint Basil of Moscow (August 2).
On the site where Saint Nilus had struggled, a monastery named for him was built. An icon of Saint Nilus was painted by the monks of the Orshin monastery, and numerous miracles of healings of the sick began to occur at the saint’s grave.
Later, Saint Nectarius, Archbishop of Sibirsk and Tobolsk lived at the monastery, and he decided to build a stone church to replace the former wooden one. When the foundations were dug, the earth crumbled away and revealed the incorrupt relics of Saint Nilus. The Uncovering of the Relics occurred on May 27, 1667, and a Feast day was established in honor of the event.
Saint John the Russian and Confessor, whose relics are on the island of Euboia
The Holy Confessor John the Russian was born in Little Russia around 1690, and was raised in piety and love for the Church of God. Upon attaining the age of maturity he was called to military service, and he served as a simple soldier in the army of Peter I and took part in the Russo-Turkish War. During the Prutsk Campaign of 1711 he and other soldiers were captured by the Tatars, who handed him over to the commander of the Turkish cavalry. He took his Russian captive home with him to Asia Minor, to the village of Prokopion.
The Turks tried to convert the Christian soldiers to the Moslem faith with threats and flattery, but those who resisted were beaten and tortured. Some, alas, denied Christ and became Moslems, hoping to improve their lot. Saint John was not swayed by the promise of earthly delights, and he bravely endured the humiliation and beatings.
His master tortured him often in the hope that his slave would accept Islam. Saint John resolutely resisted the will of his master saying, “You cannot turn me from my holy Faith by threats, nor with promises of riches and pleasures. I will obey your orders willingly, if you will leave me free to follow my religion. I would rather surrender my head to you than to change my faith. I was born a Christian, and I shall die a Christian.”
Saint John’s bold words and firm faith, as well as his humility and meekness, finally softened the fierce heart of his master. He left John in peace, and no longer tried to make him renounce Christianity. The saint lived in the stable and took care of his master’s animals, rejoicing because his bed was a manger such as the one in which the Savior was born.
From morning until late evening the saint served his Turkish master, fulfilling all his commands. He performed his duties in the winter cold and summer heat, half naked and barefoot. Other slaves frequently mocked him, seeing his zeal. Saint John never became angry with them, but on the contrary, he helped them when he could, and comforted them in their misfortune.
The saint’s kindness and gentle nature had its effect on the souls of both the master and the slaves. The Agha and his wife came to love him, and offered him a small room near the hayloft. Saint John did not accept it, preferring to remain in the stable with the animals. Here he slept on the hay, covered only by an old coat. So the stable became his hermitage, where he prayed and chanted Psalms.
Saint John brought a blessing to his master simply by living in his household. The cavalry officer became rich, and was soon one of the most powerful men in Prokopion. He knew very well why his home had been blessed, and he did not hesitate to tell others.
Sometimes Saint John left the stable at night and went to the church of the Great Martyr George, where he kept vigil in the narthex. On Saturdays and Feast days, he received the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
During this time Saint John continued to serve his master as before, and despite his own poverty, he always helped the needy and the sick, and shared his meager food with them.
One day, the officer left Prokopion and went to Mecca on pilgrimage. A few days later, his wife gave a banquet and invited her husband’s friends and relatives, asking them to pray for her husband’s safe return. Saint John served at the table, and he put down a dish of pilaf, his master’s favorite food. The hostess said, “How much pleasure your master would have if he could be here to eat this pilaf with us.” Saint John asked for a dish of pilaf, saying that he would send it to his master in Mecca. The guests laughed when they heard his words. The mistress, however, ordered the cook to give him a dish of pilaf, thinking he would eat it himself, or give it to some poor family.
Taking the dish, Saint John went into the stable and prayed that God would send it to his master. He had no doubt that God would send the pilaf to his master in a supernatual manner. The plate disappeared before his eyes, and he went into the house to tell his mistress that he had sent the pilaf to his master.
After some time, the master returned home with the copper plate which had held the pilaf. He told his household that on a certain day (the very day of the banquet), he returned from the mosque to the home where he was staying. Although the room was locked, he found a plate of steaming pilaf on the table. Unable to explain who had brought the food, or how anyone could enter the locked room, the officer examined the plate. To his amazement, he saw his own name engraved on the copper plate. In spite of his confusion, he ate the meal with great relish.
When the officer’s family heard this story, they marveled. His wife told him of how John had asked for a plate of pilaf to send to his master in Mecca, and how they all laughed when John came back and said that it had been sent. Now they saw that what the saint had said was true (Compare the story of Habakkuk, who miraculously brought a dish of pottage to Daniel in the lions’ den [Dan. 14:33-39], in the Septuagint).
Toward the end of his difficult life Saint John fell ill, and sensed the nearness of his end. He summoned the priest so that he could receive Holy Communion. The priest, fearing to go to the residence of the Turkish commander openly with the Holy Gifts, enclosed the life-giving Mysteries in an apple and brought them to Saint John.
Saint John glorified the Lord, received the Body and Blood of Christ, and then reposed. The holy Confessor John the Russian went to the Lord Whom he loved on May 27, 1730. When they reported to the master that his servant John had died, he summoned the priests and gave them the body of Saint John for Christian burial. Almost all the Christian inhabitants of Prokopion came to the funeral, and they accompanied the body of the saint to the Christian cemetery.
Three and a half years later the priest was miraculously informed in a dream that the relics of Saint John had remained incorrupt. Soon the relics of the saint were transferred to the church of the holy Great Martyr George and placed in a special reliquary. The new saint of God began to be glorified by countless miracles of grace, accounts of which spread to the remote cities and villages. Christian believers from various places came to Prokopion to venerate the holy relics of Saint John the Russian and they received healing through his prayers. The new saint came to be venerated not only by Orthodox Christians, but also by Armenians, and even Turks, who prayed to the Russian saint, “Servant of God, in your mercy, do not disdain us.”
In the year 1881 a portion of the relics of Saint John were transferred to the Russian monastery of the holy Great Martyr Panteleimon by the monks of Mount Athos, after they were miraculously saved by the saint during a dangerous journey.
Construction of a new church was begun in 1886, through the contributions of the monastery and the inhabitants of Prokopion. This was necessary because the church of the holy Great Martyr George, where the relics of Saint John were enshrined, had fallen into disrepair.
On August 15, 1898 the new church dedicated to Saint John the Russian was consecrated by the Metropolitan John of Caesarea, with the blessing of the Ecumenical Patriarch Constantine V.
In 1924, an exchange of the populations of Greece and Turkey took place. Many Moslems moved out of Greece, and many Christians moved out of Turkey. The inhabitants of Prokopion, when they moved to the island of Euboia, took with them part of the relics of Saint John the Russian.
For several decades the relics were in the church of Saints Constantine and Helen at New Prokopion on Euboia, and in 1951 they were transferred into a new church dedicated to Saint John the Russian. Thousands of pilgrims flocked here from all the corners of Greece, particularly on his Feast, May 27. Saint John the Russian is widely venerated on Mount Athos, particularly in the Russian monastery of Saint Panteleimon.
Saint John’s help is sought by travelers, and by those transporting things.
Venerable Therapon, Abbot of White Lake
Saint Therapon of White Lake, Wonderworker of Luzhetsk, in the world Theodore, was born in the year 1337 at Volokolamsk into the noble Poskochin family. From his childhood, he was raised in faith and piety, which he displayed throughout his life as a holy ascetic.
At the age of forty he was tonsured a monk by the igumen of Moscow’s Simonov monastery, Saint Theodore, a nephew of Saint Sergius (November 28). As a monk in this monastery Therapon became close to Saint Cyril of White Lake (June 9). Together they passed through their ascetic struggles of prayer and fasting. They were under the spiritual guidance of Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25 and July 5), who visited the monastery to instruct the brethren. Saint Therapon went north, to the frontier of White Lake, on monastery matters. The harsh northern land attracted the ascetic, and he decided to remain there for his ascetic endeavors.
After returning with Saint Cyril, to whom the Mother of God had appeared, also ordering him to go to the north, Saint Therapon received the blessing of the igumen to go to White Lake. For a while the ascetics lived together in a cell that they had built, but later and by mutual consent, Saint Therapon moved to another place fifteen versts away from Cyril, between two lakes, Borodava and Pava.
Having cleared a small plot for a garden, and building a cell in the deep forest near a river, Saint Therapon continued his ascetic efforts as a hermit in silence. At first he endured much deprivation and tribulation in his solitude. More than once he was set upon by robbers, who tried to chase away or even kill the ascetic. In time monks began to gather to the saint, and the wilderness place was gradually transformed into a monastery, afterwards called the Theraponov.
In 1398 Saint Therapon built a wooden church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, and the monastery was gradually set in order. The monks toiled together with their saintly guide building cells, copying books, and adorning the church. (At the end of the fifteenth century on the place of the former wooden church a stone cathedral was built in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. It was painted in the years 1500-1501 by the renowned Russian iconographer Dionysius and his sons, Vladimir and Theodosius. The frescoes are devoted to the Praise of the Most Holy Theotokos. The unique frescoes of the Saint Therapon monastery have been preserved up to the present time and are an outstanding memorial of Russian church art and painting, having world significance).
A cenobitic monastic rule was introduced at the monastery, strictly observed by the monks. Saint Therapon declined to head the monastery out of humility, and instead entrusted the position of igumen to one of his disciples. The holy ascetic, endowed with the gift of counsel, turned to his friend, Saint Cyril of White Lake for spiritual guidance just as before. News about the ascetic deeds of the saint spread far beyond the White Lake frontier.
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the lands on which the Saint Cyril and Saint Therapon monasteries were built, were part of the holdings of the Mozhaisk prince Andrew (1382-1432), son of Great Prince Demetrius Donskoy (1363-1389). In the year 1408 Prince Andrew Dimitrievich, learning of the high level of spiritual life of the White Lake ascetic, asked the monastic Elder Therapon to establish a monastery in the city of Mozhaisk.
It was difficult for the saint to leave his own monastery, where he had labored for more than ten years. Saint Therapon was met at Mozhaisk with great honor. Soon, not far from Mozhaisk, in the locality of Lushko, Saint Therapon founded his second monastery on a hilly part of the right bank of the Moscow River. Its chief temple was in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, in memory of the White Lake monastery. Prince Andrew, esteeming the saint for his true humility, provided generous help in the construction and establishment of the monastery. With the blessing of Saint Photius, Metropolitan of Moscow (July 2 and May 27), the monastery was to be headed by an archimandrite, and Saint Therapon was elevated to the rank of archimandrite.
Saint Therapon dwelt at this new monastery for eighteen years. He reposed at an advanced age, on May 27, 1426. His body was buried at the north wall of the cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos. Over his grave a church was built in honor of Saint John of the Ladder (March 30), and renamed in 1730 for Saint Therapon.
Veneration of the saint began soon after his death. In 1514, the incorrupt relics of the holy ascetic were uncovered and glorified by numerous miracles. After the Moscow Council of 1547 the canonization of Saint Therapon of Mozhaisk took place after the igumen of the Saint Therapon monastery brought to Metropolitan Macarius (1543-1564) a Life of the saint.
Among the numerous disciples and conversers of Saint Sergius of Radonezh, the Russian Church venerates the memory of Saint Therapon, who in following the counsel of his great teacher and guide, combined the ascetic feats of silence and solitude with active service to his neighbor and the spiritual enlightenment of his Fatherland.
The memory of Saint Therapon is celebrated twice, May 27 (his repose in 1426), and December 27 (Uncovering of his relics, 1514).
Translation of the relics of Saints Cyprian, Photius, and Jonah, Metropolitans of Moscow and All Russia
The Uncovering and Transfer of Relics of Holy Hierarchs Cyprian, Photius and Jonah occured on May 27, 1472 during the construction of the new stone Dormition cathedral in the Kremlin, under Metropolitan Philip (January 9) and Great Prince Ivan III (1462-1505). The saints are also commemorated separately: Metropolitan Cyprian (September 16), Metropolitan Photius (July 2), Metropolitan Jonah (March 31).
Venerable Therapon, Abbot of Monza
Saint Therapon of Monza (+ 1597): Today the holy ascetic’s namesake Saint Therapon of Sardis is celebrated. See account of Saint Therapon under December 12, the day of his repose.
Virgin Martyr Theodora and Martyr Didymus the Soldier, of Alexandria
The Holy Martyrs Theodora the Virgin and Didymus the Soldier suffered for Christ during the persecution against Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305), in the city of Alexandria in either the year 303 or 304.
The Virgin Martyr Theodora, standing trial before the prefect Eustratius of Alexandria, bravely confessed herself a Christian. When the prefect asked why she had not married, the saint replied that she had dedicated herself to God, and had resolved to remain a virgin for the name of Christ.
Eustratius ordered the holy virgin to be taken to prison, giving her three days to make up her mind, and he threatened to have her taken to a brothel if she persisted in her disobedience. Brought again to trial three days later, Saint Theodora remained as resolute in her faith as before.
The saint was taken to the brothel, where dissolute youths began to argue which of them should be the first to have her. At this moment the Christian Didymus, dressed in soldier’s garb, entered the brothel without hindrance. He chased the frightened profligates out and saved the holy virgin, giving her his clothes so she could escape.
Upon learning what had happened, Eustratius interrogated Saint Didymus. Brought before the angry judge, Saint Didymus told how he had set the holy virgin free, and for this he was sentenced to death. Saint Theodora appeared at the place of execution, and said that she wanted to die with Saint Didymus. The prefect gave orders to execute both of them . The first to bend the neck beneath the sword was the holy martyr Theodora, and then the holy Martyr Didymus. The bodies of the martyrs were then burned.
Venerable Bede, the Church Historian
Saint Bede was a church historian who recorded the history of Christianity in England up to his own time. He was probably born around 673 in Northumbria. We do not know exactly where he was born, but it is likely that it was somewhere near Jarrow.
When he was seven, Bede was sent to Saint Benedict Biscop (January 12) at the monastery of Saint Peter at Wearmouth to be educated and raised. Then he was sent to the new monastery of Saint Paul founded at Jarrow in 682, where he remained until his death. There he was guided by the abbot Saint Ceolfrith (September 25), who succeeded Saint Benedict in 690, ruling both Wearmouth and Jarrow.
There is an incident in the anonymous Life of Ceolfrith which may refer to the young Bede. A plague swept through Ceolfrith’s monastery in 686, taking most of the monks who sang in the choir for the church services. Only the abbot and a young boy raised and educated by him remained. This young boy “is now a priest of the same monastery and commends the abbot’s admirable deeds both verbally and in writing to all who desire to learn them.”
Grieved by this catastrophe, Ceolfrith decided that they should sing the Psalms without antiphons, except at Matins and Vespers. After a week of this, he went back to chanting the antiphons in their proper place. With the help of the boy and the surviving monks, the services were performed with difficulty until other monks could be brought in and trained to sing.
Saint Bede was ordained as a deacon when he was nineteen, and to the holy priesthood at the age of thirty by Saint John of Beverley (May 7), the holy Bishop of Hexham (687), and later (705) of York. Bede had a great love for the church services, and believed that since the angels were present with the monks during the services, that he should also be there. “What if they do not find me among the brethren when they assemble? Will they not say, ‘Where is Bede?’
Bede began as a pupil of Saint Benedict Biscop, who had been a monk of the famous monastery at Lerins, and had founded monasteries himself. Saint Benedict had brought many books with him to England from Lerins and from other European monasteries. This library enabled Bede to write his own books, which include biblical commentary, ecclesiastical history, and hagiography.
Bede was not an objective historian. He is squarely on the Roman side in the debate with Celtic Christianity, for example. He was, however, fair and thorough. His books, derived from “ancient documents, from the traditions of our ancestors, and from my own personal knowledge” (Book V, 24) give us great insight into the religious and secular life of early Britain. To read Saint Bede is to enter a world shaped by spiritual traditions very similar to those cherished by Orthodox Christians. These saints engage in the same heroic asceticism shown by saints in the East, and their holiness fills us with love and admiration. Christians were expected to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, and there was a forty day Nativity Fast (Book IV, 30).
Saint Bede became ill in 735. For about two weeks before Pascha, he was weak and had trouble breathing, but experienced little pain. He remained cheerful and gave daily lessons to his students, then spent the rest of the day singing Psalms and giving thanks to God. He would often quote the words of Saint Ambrose, “I have not lived in such a way that I am ashamed to live among you, and I do not fear to die, for God is gracious” (Paulinus, Life of Saint Ambrose, Ch. 45).
In addition to giving daily lessons and chanting the Psalms, Saint Bede was also working on an Anglo-Saxon translation of the Gospel of Saint John, and also a book of extracts from the writings of Saint Isidore of Seville (April 4). On the Tuesday before the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension, the saint’s breathing became more labored, and his feet began to swell. “Learn quickly,” he told those who were taking dictation from him, “for I do not know how long I can continue. The Lord may call me in a short while.”
After a sleepless night, Saint Bede continued his dictation on Wednesday morning. At the Third Hour, there was a procession with the relics of the saints in the monastery, and the brethren went to attend this service, leaving a monk named Wilbert with Bede. The monk reminded him that there remained one more chapter to be written in the book which he was dictating. Wilbert was reluctant to disturb the dying Bede, however. Saint Bede said, “It is no trouble. Take your pen and write quickly.”
At the Ninth Hour, Bede paused and told Wilbert that he had some items in his chest, such as pepper, incense, and linen. He asked the monk to bring the priests of the monastery so that he could distribute these items to them. When they arrived, he spoke to each of them in turn, requesting them to pray for him and to remember him in the services. Then he said, “The time of my departure is at hand, and my soul longs to see Christ my King in His beauty.”
That evening, Wilbert said to him, “Dear Master, there is one sentence left unfinished.”
Bede said, “Very well, write it down.”
Then the young monk said, “It is finished now.”
Saint Bede replied, “You have spoken truly, it is well finished.” Then he asked Wilbert to raise his head so that he could see the church where he used to pray. After chanting, “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit” to its ending, Saint Bede fell asleep in the Lord Whom he had loved.
Although Saint Bede reposed on May 25, the eve of the Ascension, he is commemorated on the 27th, since the Feast of Saint Augustine of Canterbury is appointed for the 26th. His body was first buried in the south porch of the monastery church, then later transferred to a place near the altar. Today his holy relics lie in Durham Cathedral, in the Galilee chapel. Saint Bede is the only Englishman mentioned by Dante in the DIVINE COMEDY (Paradiso).
Saint Basil of Georgia, son of King Bagrat III
Saint Basil, the son of King Bagrat III, lived in the 11th century and labored at Khakhuli Monastery (in southwestern Georgia, present-day Turkey). He was a major figure in the spiritual and educational life of southern Georgia.
The famous 19th-century scholar Prince John Bagrationi describes Saint Basil in his work Kalmasoba: (the tradition of monks journeying throughout the land to collect alms for the Church. In his book Prince John follows a fictional monk traveling throughout the country on kalmasoba. With this literary device he describes the contemporary situation, the life of the people, diverse branches of knowledge, and Georgian literature and folk culture, creating a veritable Georgian encyclopedia.) “Basil Bagrationi was highly educated in philosophy and theology. He was fluent in several languages and translated many books. He was the composer of many distinguished rhetorical works. Perfected in the monastic life and in the spiritual learning of the Church, our Holy Father Basil was known among the people as the ‘Jewel of the Georgian Church.’”
The 18th-century historian and geographer Prince Vakhushti Bagrationi examined the cultural development of Georgia during the rule of King Bagrat IV in his book The Ancient History of Georgia, and Basil is among the major Church figures he mentions: “The great translators of the time were Basil, son of Bagrat….” In his work The Life of Saint Giorgi of the Holy Mountain, Giorgi the Lesser recalls the pious laborer of Khakhuli Monastery: “The great Basil, son of King Bagrat III, shepherd and enlightener of our country at that time.”
Saint Basil eventually moved from Georgia to Mt. Athos and labored there until his death. It was there that he composed his “Praises to Holy Father Ekvtime.”
Venerable Michael of Parekhi
Saint Michael of Parekhi was a native of the village of Norgiali in the Shavsheti region of southern Georgia. He was tonsured a monk in the Midznadzori Wilderness.
Fr. Michael journeyed to Khandzta Monastery, and with the blessing of the brotherhood, he built a small chapel and dwelling for the monks nearby. Built in a cave on the side of a cliff, Saint Michael’s establishment was difficult to reach (the new monastery was called “Parekhi,” or “Cave”). God was pleased with his good works, and He granted Saint Michael the gift of working wonders. In a divine revelation, Saint Michael was instructed to send his disciples Serapion and John to the region of Samtskhe. There they established a beautiful monastery in the village of Zarzma.
After some time Father Michael abandoned his cell and settled at the top of a large boulder. Once the devil caused him to stumble off the rock, but the Lord protected him and he remained unharmed.
Frightened by the incident, Michael sent his disciples to bring Saint Gregory of Khandzta, and he related to him all that had happened. The blessed Gregory assuaged his brother’s fears, erected a cross on either side of Michael’s cell, and told him, “These two crosses of Christ will protect you, and the mercy of the Most Holy Trinity and the Precious Cross will be upon you.”
Saint Michael lived to an old age, and he was buried at Parekhi Monastery. Many faithful pilgrims who have visited his grave have been healed of their infirmities.
According to Basil of Zarzma, Saint Michael’s disciples wrote accounts of his labors, wisdom, and miracles after his repose, but these works have unfortunately not been preserved. What we know about the life of Saint Michael of Parekhi was preserved in the hagiographical writings of the 10th and 11th centuries.
Venerable Matthew of Zaransk
Venerable Matthew of Zaransk (in the world Mētrophánēs Kuzmich Svetov) was born in 1861, in the city of Vyatka. His father was a shoemaker and the Saint engaged in commerce when he was young.
In 1891, Mētrophánēs was tonsured in the monastery of Saint Alexander and received the name Matthew. Here he labored in asceticism and obedience, and taught unceasing prayer. God bestowed upon him the gift of working miracles, and the Saint became a spiritual refuge and consolation for the people of God.
Thus, after a godly life, the Saint reposed peacefully in 1927.
THIRD FINDING OF THE PRECIOUS HEAD OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS, WINE, OLIVE OIL
Third Finding of the Precious Head of St. John the Baptist, Carpos and Alphaeus, Apostles of the 70, Alexandros the New Martyr of Thessaloniki, George the New of Sofia, Augustine, Archbishop of Canterbury
ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 4:6-15
Brethren, it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness, " who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke, " we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
At that time, when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to behold? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, those who wear soft raiment are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been coming violently and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Apostle Carpus of the Seventy
Saint Carpus was one of the Seventy Apostles chosen and sent forth to preach by Christ (Luke 10:1). He was bishop of Verria in Macedonia.
Apostle Alphaeus of the Seventy
The Holy Apostle Alphaeus of the Seventy came from the Galilean city of Capernaum and was the father of the Apostles James and Matthew.
Greatmartyr George the New at Sofia, Bulgaria
The Holy Martyr George the New was born into an illustrious Bulgarian family, living in the capital city of Bulgaria, Sredets (now the city of Sofia). Saint George’s childless parents, John and Mary, in their declining years entreated the Lord to send them a child. Their prayer was answered, and they baptized the infant with the name of the holy Great Martyr George (April 23).
Young George received a fine upbringing, he attentively studied the Holy Scriptures, and he was pious and chaste. His parents died when George was twenty-five. At that time Bulgaria found itself under the rule of the Turks, who forcibly converted Christians to Islam.
Once, several Moslems tried to convert George. They put a fez on the saint’s head. This is a red circular hat which Moslems wear to enter their house of prayer. But George threw the fez on the ground. The Turks brought the martyr to their governor with beatings and abuse.
The governor was impressed with Saint George’s appearance and bearing, and he urged him to accept Islam, promising honors and wealth from Sultan Selim (1512-1520). The saint boldly and steadfastly confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and reproached the errors of Islam. The governor in a rage gave orders to beat Saint George with rods, but the saint persevered in his confession of faith in Christ.
The governor ordered the tortures to be increased. The passion-bearer bore all his sufferings, calling on the Lord Jesus Christ for help. Then they led the martyr through the city to the beat of a drum and shouts: “Do not insult Mohammed nor abase the Moslem faith”.
Finally, a large fire was lit in the city, to burn Saint George. Weakened by his wounds, the saint fell to the ground. They threw him into the fire still alive, and they threw corpses of dogs on top of him so that Christians would not be able to find the relics of the martyr.
Suddenly, a heavy rain fell and extinguished the fire. With the onset of darkness, the place where the body of the martyr was thrown was illumined with a bright light. They gave permission to a certain Christian priest to take the venerable relics of the martyr for burial. Informed about the occurrence, Metropolitan Jeremiah and his clergy went to the place of execution. In the ashes of the fire they located the body of the holy Martyr George and carried it to the church of Saint George the Great Martyr in the city of Sredets.
On May 26, 1515 the holy relics of Saint George were removed from the grave, placed in a coffin, and then brought into the church, where they have remained ever since. The Church honors Saint George twice during the year: on February 11, the day of his martyrdom, and on May 26, the uncovering of his holy relics.
Uncovering of the relics of Venerable Macarius, Abbot of Kalyazin
The Uncovering of the Relics of Saint Macarius of Kalyazin occurred on May 26, 1521. A merchant from the city of Dmitrov, Michael Voronkov, offered the means for the construction of a stone church to replace the decaying wooden one at the Kalyazin monastery.
The igumen of the monastery, Joasaph, set up a cross at the spot designated for the altar, and gave a blessing to dig the trench for the foundation. During the work a grave was discovered, exuding an ineffable fragrance. Igumen Joasaph immediately recognized the grave of the monastery’s founder, Saint Macarius, who reposed in the year 1483.
The brethren of the monastery and a crowd of people sang a Panikhida during the transfer of the coffin to the church. From that day the incorrupt relics of the saint began to work healings. A report about this was made to Metropolitan Daniel of Moscow (1522-1539), who convened a Council at Moscow. After examining testimony about the sanctity of Macarius, he established a Feast day for the newly-appeared saint. The relics were solemnly transferred to the church of the Holy Trinity.
Theodosius of Tver composed the service for the Uncovering of the Relics. Until 1547, Saint Macarius was venerated only at this monastery. During the Moscow Council of 1547 under Metropolitan Macarius (1543-1564), Saint Macarius of Kalyazin was numbered among the saints, and his name added to the calendar of other Russian saints to be celebrated throughout all of Russia.
The Life of Saint Macarius of Kalyazin is found under March 17, the day of his blessed repose.
Martyrs Abercius and Helen, children of the Apostle Alphæus
According to Tradition, the Holy Martyrs Abercius and Helen were children of the holy Apostle Alphaeus. For confessing his faith in Christ, Saint Abercius was tied naked to a beehive and died from the bees’ sting. For confessing her faith in Christ, Saint Helen was pelted with stones.
Venenerable Confessor John Psykhaϊtēs
The Venerable Confessor John Psykhaϊtēs lived at the end of the VIII or the beginning of the IX century. Nothing is known about his early life, but he lived during the reign of Emperor Leo V (813 – 820). As a young man, he forsook the world and became a monk at the Psykhaϊtē Monastery (in the suburbs of Constantinople). The Saint was an ascetic who subdued the desires of the flesh by fasting, prayer, and austerity. Because of his holy life and deeds, he received from God the gift of casting out demons and healing diseases. The iconoclast heresy was raging at that time, and those who venerated holy icons were subjected to persecution.
Saint John was led away for interrogation, and they tried to force him to sign a document repudiating the veneration of the holy icons. Instead of repudiating the holy icons, the Saint denounced his persecutors, calling Emperor Leo the Isaurian (813 – 820) a heretic; therefore, he was sent into exile. He was a vigorous defender of the holy icons, and he fought against the impious iconoclasts. For this reason, he was arrested and exiled many times.
After every persecution, he returned more energetic and more aggressive than before, defeating the audacity of the iconoclasts, who despised the revered image of Christ. Saint John had tremendous spiritual strength and great boldness. His very appearance shook his opponents and strengthened his friends. Therefore, he was highly respected and honored by all. This was enhanced by the miraculous grace with which he had been endowed by God.
After living a godly life, and contesting mightily for the Orthodox Faith, Saint John reposed in peace
Saint John is commemorated on May 7 in Greek usage.
Saint Augustine of Canterbury, Evangelizer of England
Saint Augustine was from Italy, and a disciple of Saint Felix, Bishop of Messana. Saint Gregory Dialogus (March 12) chose him to lead a mission of forty monks to evangelize the people of Britain. They arrived at Ebbsfleet (on the isle of Thanet) in Kent in 597.
King Ethelbert, whose Frankish wife Bertha was a Christian, welcomed them. They were allowed to base their mission at the ancient church of Saint Martin in Canterbury, which was restored for their use. This church had been built during the Roman occupation of Britain, and the queen often went there to pray. At first, the king was reluctant to give up his pagan beliefs, but he promised not to harm them, and to supply them with whatever they needed. He also promised that he would not prevent them from preaching Christianity. Saint Augustine later converted the king to Christianity, along with thousands of his subjects. The holy right-believing King Ethelbert is commemorated on February 25.
Bede says that Saint Augustine was consecrated as Archbishop of Britain by Archbishop Etherius of Arles (others say that it was his successor Saint Virgilius of Arles [March 5] who consecrated Saint Augustine). Returning to Britain, he threw himself into the work of evangelizing the country with renewed zeal. Saint Augustine built Christ Church, predecessor of the present cathedral at Canterbury, and consecrated it on June 9, 603 (according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). He also founded the monastery of Saints Peter and Paul east of the city. Here Saint Augustine, the Archbishops of Canterbury, and the Kings of Kent were buried. The monastery, now in ruins, was later known as Saint Augustine’s Monastery.
The saint was instrumental in founding the dioceses of Rochester and London. In 604 he consecrated Saint Justus (November 10) and Saint Mellitus (April 24) as bishops for those Sees. Saint Augustine also helped the king draft the earliest Anglo-Saxon laws, and founded a school in Canterbury.
Saint Augustine was not completely successful in all his efforts, however. He was not able to achieve unity with the already existing Christian communities who followed Celtic practices. He met with some of their bishops to urge them to abandon their Celtic traditions and to accept the Roman practices. He invited them to cooperate with him in evangelizing the country, but they refused to give up their ancient traditions. Before meeting with Saint Augustine in 603, the Celtic bishops asked a holy hermit whether or not to accept Augustine as their leader. The hermit replied, “If he rises to greet you, then accept him. If he remains seated, then he is arrogant and unfit to be your leader, and you should reject him.” Unfortunately, Saint Augustine did not rise to greet them. Perhaps Saint Augustine was, to some degree, a bit tactless and too insistent on conformity to Roman customs. On the other hand, Celtic resentment against Roman authority also contributed to the stormy relationship.
Known in his lifetime as a wonderworker, Saint Augustine fell asleep in the Lord on May 26, 604. He was laid to rest at the entrance of the unfinished church of Saints Peter and Paul. When the church was dedicated in 613, his holy relics were placed inside. An epitaph was composed for his tomb. In part, it reads: “Here lies the Lord Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, sent here by blessed Gregory, bishop of the city of Rome, who with the help of God, and aided by miracles, guided King Ethelbert and his people from the worship of idols to the Faith of Christ.”
Saint Bede (May 27) gives detailed information about Saint Augustine’s mission to Britain in his History of the English Church and People (Book I, 23-33. Book II, 1-3).
Holy Ascension, Third Finding of the Precious Head of St. John the Baptist, Therapon the Hieromartyr, Bishop of Cyprus, Finding of the Icon of St. Demetrios the Great-Martyr and Myrrh-Streamer on Syros, Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 1:1-12
In the first book, O Theophilos, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” He said to them, “it is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Then they returned from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.
At that time, having risen from the dead, Jesus went up and stood among His disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of broiled fish [and some honeycomb], and He took it and ate before them. Then He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name in all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands, He blessed them. While He blessed them, He parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the Temple blessing God.
The Ascension of our Lord
“AND ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN….”
V. Rev. George Florovsky, D.D.
“I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God, and Your God” (John 20:17).
In these words the Risen Christ described to Mary Magdalene the mystery of His Resurrection. She had to carry this mysterious message to His disciples, “as they mourned and wept” (Mark 16:10). The disciples listened to these glad tidings with fear and amazement, with doubt and mistrust. It was not Thomas alone who doubted among the Eleven. On the contrary, it appears that only one of the Eleven did not doubt—Saint John, the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” He alone grasped the mystery of the empty tomb at once: “and he saw, and believed” (John 20:8). Even Peter left the sepulcher in amazement, “wondering at that which was come to pass” (Luke 24:12).
The disciples did not expect the Resurrection. The women did not, either. They were quite certain that Jesus was dead and rested in the grave, and they went to the place “where He was laid,” with the spices they had prepared, “that they might come and anoint Him.” They had but one thought: “Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulcher for us?” (Mark 16:1-3; Luke 24:1). And therefore, on not finding the body, Mary Magdalene was sorrowful and complained: “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him” (John 20:13). On hearing the good news from the angel, the women fled from the sepulchre in fear and trembling: “Neither said they anything to any man, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). And when they spoke no one believed them, in the same way as no one had believed Mary, who saw the Lord, or the disciples as they walked on their way into the country, (Mark 16:13), and who recognized Him in the breaking of bread. “And afterward He appeared unto the Eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them who had seen Him after He was risen” (Mark 16:10-14).
From whence comes this “hardness of heart” and hesitation? Why were their eyes so “holden,” why were the disciples so much afraid of the news, and why did the Easter joy so slowly, and with such difficulty, enter the Apostles’ hearts? Did not they, who were with Him from the beginning, “from the baptism of John,” see all the signs of power which He performed before the face of the whole people? The lame walked, the blind saw, the dead were raised, and all infirmities were healed. Did they not behold, only a week earlier, how He raised by His word Lazarus from the dead, who had already been in the grave for four days? Why then was it so strange to them that the Master had arisen Himself? How was it that they came to forget that which the Lord used to tell them on many occasions, that after suffering and death He would arise on the third day?
The mystery of the Apostles’ “unbelief” is partly disclosed in the narrative of the Gospel: “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel,” with disillusionment and complaint said the two disciples to their mysterious Companion on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:21). They meant: He was betrayed, condemned to death and crucified. The news of the Resurrection brought by the women only “astonished” them. They still wait for an earthly triumph, for an exernal victory. The same temptation possesses their hearts, which first prevented them from accepting “the preaching of the Cross” and made them argue every time the Saviour tried to reveal His mystery to them. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” (Luke 24:26). It was still difficult to understand this.
He had the power to arise, why did He allow what that had happened to take place at all? Why did He take upon Himself disgrace, blasphemy and wounds? In the eyes of all Jerusalem, amidst the vast crowds assembled for the Great Feast, He was condemned and suffered a shameful death. And now He enters not into the Holy City, neither to the people which beheld His shame and death, nor to the High Priests and elders, nor to Pilate—so that He might make their crime obvious and smite their pride. Instead, He sends His disciples away to remote Galilee and appears to them there. Even much earlier the disciples wondered, “How is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22). Their wonder continues, and even on the day of His glorious Ascension the Apostles question the Lord, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They still did not comprehend the meaning of His Resurrection, they did not understand what it meant that He was “ascending” to the Father. Their eyes were opened but later, when “the promise of the Father” had been fulfilled.
In the Ascension resides the meaning and the fullness of Christ’s Resurrection.
The Lord did not rise in order to return again to the fleshly order of life, so as to live again and commune with the disciples and the multitudes by means of preaching and miracles. Now he does not even stay with them, but only “appears” to them during the forty days, from time to time, and always in a miraculous and mysterious manner. “He was not always with them now, as He was before the Resurrection,” comments Saint John Chrysostom. “He came and again disappeared, thus leading them on to higher conceptions. He no longer permitted them to continue in their former relationship toward Him, but took effectual measures to secure these two objects: That the fact of His Resurrection should be believed, and that He Himself should be ever after apprehended to be greater than man.” There was something new and unusual in His person (cf. John 21:1-14). As Saint John Chrysostom says, “It was not an open presence, but a certain testimony of the fact that He was present.” That is why the disciples were confused and frightened. Christ arose not in the same way as those who were restored to life before Him. Theirs was a resurrection for a time, and they returned to life in the same body, which was subject to death and corruption—returned to the previous mode of life. But Christ arose for ever, unto eternity. He arose in a body of glory, immortal and incorruptible. He arose, never to die, for “He clothed the mortal in the splendor of incorruption.” His glorified Body was already exempt from the fleshly order of existence. “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body” (I Cor. 15:42-44). This mysterious transformation of human bodies, of which Saint Paul was speaking in the case of our Lord, had been accomplished in three days. Christ’s work on earth was accomplished. He had suffered, was dead and buried, and now rose to a higher mode of existence. By His Resurrection He abolished and destroyed death, abolished the law of corruption, “and raised with Himself the whole race of Adam.” Christ has risen, and now “no dead are left in the grave” (cf. The Easter Sermon of Saint John Chrysostom). And now He ascends to the Father, yet He does not “go away,” but abides with the faithful for ever (cf. The Kontakion of Ascension). For He raises the very earth with Him to heaven, and even higher than any heaven. God’s power, in the phrase of Saint John Chrysostom, “manifests itself not only in the Resurrection, but in something much stronger.” For “He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19).
And with Christ, man’s nature ascends also.
“We who seemed unworthy of the earth, are now raised to heaven,” says Saint John Chrysostom. “We who were unworthy of earthly dominion have been raised to the Kingdom on high, have ascended higher than heaven, have came to occupy the King’s throne, and the same nature from which the angels guarded Paradise, stopped not until it ascended to the throne of the Lord.” By His Ascension the Lord not only opened to man the entrance to heaven, not only appeared before the face of God on our behalf and for our sake, but likewise “transferred man” to the high places. “He honored them He loved by putting them close to the Father.” God quickened and raised us together with Christ, as Saint Paul says, “and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephes. 2:6). Heaven received the inhabitants of the earth. “The First fruits of them that slept” sits now on high, and in Him all creation is summed up and bound together. “The earth rejoices in mystery, and the heavens are filled with joy.”
“The terrible ascent….” Terror-stricken and trembling stand the angelic hosts, contemplating the Ascension of Christ. And trembling they ask each other, “What is this vision? One who is man in appearance ascends in His body higher than the heavens, as God.”
Thus the Office for the Feast of the Ascension depicts the mystery in a poetical language. As on the day of Christ’s Nativity the earth was astonished on beholding God in the flesh, so now the Heavens do tremble and cry out. “The Lord of Hosts, Who reigns over all, Who is Himself the head of all, Who is preeminent in all things, Who has reinstated creation in its former order—He is the King of Glory.” And the heavenly doors are opened: “Open, Oh heavenly gates, and receive God in the flesh.” It is an open allusion to Psalms 24:7-10, now prophetically interpreted. “Lift up your heads, Oh ye gates, and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty….” Saint Chrysostom says, “Now the angels have received that for which they have long waited, the archangels see that for which they have long thirsted. They have seen our nature shining on the King’s throne, glistening with glory and eternal beauty…. Therefore they descend in order to see the unusual and marvelous vision: Man appearing in heaven.”
The Ascension is the token of Pentecost, the sign of its coming, “The Lord has ascended to heaven and will send the Comforter to the world”
For the Holy Spirit was not yet in the world, until Jesus was glorified. And the Lord Himself told the disciples, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you” (John 16:7). The gifts of the Spirit are “gifts of reconciliation,” a seal of an accomplished salvation and of the ultimate reunion of the world with God. And this was accomplished only in the Ascension. “And one saw miracles follow miracles,” says Saint John Chrysostom, “ten days prior to this our nature ascended to the King’s throne, while today the Holy Ghost has descended on to our nature.” The joy of the Ascension lies in the promise of the Spirit. “Thou didst give joy to Thy disciples by a promise of the Holy Spirit.” The victory of Christ is wrought in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“On high is His body, here below with us is His Spirit. And so we have His token on high, that is His body, which He received from us, and here below we have His Spirit with us. Heaven received the Holy Body, and the earth accepted the Holy Spirit. Christ came and sent the Spirit. He ascended, and with Him our body ascended also” (Saint John Chrysostom). The revelation of the Holy Trinity was completed. Now the Spirit Comforter is poured forth on all flesh. “Hence comes foreknowledge of the future, understanding of mysteries, apprehension of what is hidden, distribution of good gifts, the heavenly citizenship, a place in the chorus of angels, joy without end, abiding in God, the being made like to God, and, highest of all, the being made God!” (Saint Basil, On the Holy Spirit, IX). Beginning with the Apostles, and through communion with them—by an unbroken succession—Grace is spread to all believers. Through renewal and glorification in the Ascended Christ, man’s nature became receptive of the spirit. “And unto the world He gives quickening forces through His human body,” says Bishop Theophanes. “He holds it completely in Himself and penetrates it with His strength, out of Himself; and He likewise draws the angels to Himself through the spirit of man, giving them space for action and thus making them blessed.” All this is done through the Church, which is “the Body of Christ;” that is, His “fullness” (Ephesians 1:23). “The Church is the fulfillment of Christ,” continues Bishop Theophanes, “perhaps in the same way as the tree is the fulfillment of the seed. That which is contained in the seed in a contracted form receives its development in the tree.”
The very existence of the Church is the fruit of the Ascension. It is in the Church that man’s nature is truly ascended to the Divine heights. “And gave Him to be Head over all things” (Ephesians 1:22). Saint John Chrysostom comments: “Amazing! Look again, whither He has raised the Church. As though He were lifting it up by some engine, He has raised it up to a vast height, and set it on yonder throne; for where the Head is, there is the body also. There is no interval of separation between the Head and the body; for were there a separation, then would the one no longer be a body, nor would the other any longer be a Head.” The whole race of men is to follow Christ, even in His ultimate exaltation, “to follow in His train.” Within the Church, through an acquisition of the Spirit in the fellowship of Sacraments, the Ascension continues still, and will continue until the measure is full. “Only then shall the Head be filled up, when the body is rendered perfect, when we are knit together and united,” concludes Saint John Chrysostom.
The Ascension is a sign and token of the Second Coming. “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The mystery of God’s Providence will be accomplished in the Return of the Risen Lord. In the fulfillment of time, Christ’s kingly power will be revealed and spread over the whole of faithful mankind. Christ bequeathes the Kingdom to the whole of the faithful. “And I appoint unto you a Kingdom as My Father has appointed unto me. That ye may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Luke 22:29-30). Those who followed Him faithfully will sit with Him on their thrones on the day of His coming. “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne” (Rev. 3:21). Salvation will be consummated in the Glory. “Conceive to yourself the throne, the royal throne, conceive the immensity of the privilege. This, at least if we chose, might more avail to startle us, yea, even than hell itself” (Saint John Chrysostom).
We should tremble more at the thought of that abundant Glory which is appointed unto the redeemed, than at the thought of the eternal darkness. “Think near Whom Thy Head is seated….” Or rather, Who is the Head. In very truth, “wondrous and terrible is Thy divine ascension from the mountain, O Giver of Life.” A terrible and wondrous height is the King’s throne. In face of this height all flesh stands silent, in awe and trembling. “He has Himself descended to the lowest depths of humiliation, and raised up man to the height of exaltation.”
What then should we do? “If thou art the body of Christ, bear the Cross, for He bore it” (Saint John Chrysostom).
“With the power of Thy Cross, Oh Christ, establish my thoughts, so that I may sing and glorify Thy saving Ascension.”
Originally published in Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 2 # 3, 1954.
Used with permission.
Third Finding of the Honorable Head of the Holy Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John
The Third Discovery of the Venerable Head of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John occurred in about the year 850 (see the account of the First and Second Discoveries on February 24). The head of Saint John the Forerunner was first found on the Mount of Olives, where it had been hidden by Joanna, wife of Chusa, after the Saint's beheading; and found the second time in the city of Emesia during a time of unrest at Constantinople connected with the exile of Saint John Chrysostom (November 13).
It was transferred to Komana during the Saracen raids (about 810-820) and it was hidden in the ground during a period of iconoclastic persecution. When the veneration of icons was restored, Patriarch Ignatius (847-857) saw in a vision the place where the head of Saint John the Forerunner was hidden. The patriarch communicated this to the emperor, who sent a delegation to Komana. There the head was found a third time around the year 850.
Afterwards the head was again transferred to Constantinople, and here on May 25 it was placed in a church at the court. Part of the head is on Mt. Athos. The Third Discovery of the Head of John the Baptist is commemorated on May 25.
Hieromartyr Therapon, Bishop of Cyprus
The Hieromartyr Therapon, Bishop of Cyprus, lived a life of asceticism in a monastery, and afterwards he served as a bishop on the island of Cyprus. At the time of the persecution under Diocletian (284-305), Saint Therapon bravely confessed the name of Christ and died a martyric death.
The relics of the hieromartyr were at first located on Cyprus and were glorified by numerous miracles. Later, in the year 806, they were transferred to Constantinople. The relics were moved because of a danger of invasion by the Saracens. As the ship sailed to Constantinople, myrrh began to flow from the relics, and travellers on the ship were miraculously saved during a storm by their prayers to Saint Therapon.
Upon arrival at Constantinople, the relics of the hieromartyr were placed in a temple built in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God of Eleousa or “the Merciful” (November 12).
In the year 806 the relics were again transferred into a temple built in honor of the Hieromartyr Therapon, myrrh flowed from them, and miracles took place. Through the prayers of Saint Therapon, those who are seriously ill are healed, and the dying restored to life.
Hieromartyr Urban, Pope of Rome
No information on the life of this saint is available at this time.
Icon of the Mother of God “the Helper of the Sinners” from Koretsk
No information on the life of this saint is available at this time.
Apodosis of Pascha, Symeon the Stylite of the Mountain, Saint Vincent of Lerins, Meletios the Commander & his Companion Martyrs, Gregory, Archbishop of Novgorod
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES 18:22-28
IN THOSE DAYS, when Paul had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there he departed and went from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesos. He was an eloquent man, well versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and expounded to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him, and wrote to the disciples to receive him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully confuted the Jews in public, showing by the scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, "While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light. When Jesus had said this, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in him; it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: "Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If any one hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
Leavetaking of Pascha
On Wednesday of the sixth week of Pascha, we celebrate the Leavetaking of the Feast. While most Feasts have their Leavetaking on the eighth day, Pascha, the Feast of Feasts, has its Leavetaking on the thirty-ninth day. The fortieth day is the Feast of the Lord’s Ascension, which marks the end of the Lord’s physical presence on earth. He does not abandon us, however. He has promised to be with us always, even until the end of the age (MT 20:28). As we sing in the Kontakion for Ascension, “Thou didst ascend in glory, O Christ our God, not being parted from those who love Thee, but remaining with them and crying: I am with you and no one will be against you.” There is a similar thought expressed in the Troparion for the Dormition: “In falling asleep, you did not forsake the world, O Theotokos.”
The services today are celebrated just as on the day of Pascha itself. The daily readings from Holy Scripture, of course, will differ. After the Dismissal at Liturgy, the paschal hymns are no longer sung. The prayer “O Heavenly King” is not said or sung until Pentecost.The Winding Sheet (Plaschanitsa) is taken from the altar and is put in its proper place. Even though today is a Wednesday, fish, wine, and oil are permitted.
Today we also commemorate the Finding of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Meeting” in Kalamata in the Peloponnesus.
Venerable Simeon Stylites the Younger of Wonderful Mountain
Saint Simeon the Stylite was born in the year 521 in Antioch, Syria of pious parents John and Martha. From her youth Saint Martha (July 4) prepared herself for a life of virginity and longed for monasticism, but her parents insisted that she marry John. After ardent prayer in a church dedicated to Saint John the Forerunner, the future nun was directed in a vision to submit to the will of her parents and enter into marriage.
As a married woman, Saint Martha strove to please God and her husband in everything. She often prayed for a baby and promised to dedicate him to the service of God. Saint John the Forerunner revealed to Martha that she would have a son who would serve God. When the infant was born, he was named Simeon and baptized at two years of age.
When Simeon was six years old, an earthquake occurred in the city of Antioch, in which his father perished. Simeon was in church at the time of the earthquake. Leaving the church, he became lost and spent seven days sheltered by a pious woman. Saint John the Baptist again appeared to Saint Martha, and indicated where to find the lost boy. The saint’s mother found her lost son, and moved to the outskirts of Antioch after the earthquake. Already during his childhood the Lord Jesus Christ appeared several times to Saint Simeon, foretelling his future exploits and the reward for them.
The six-year-old child Simeon went into the wilderness, where he lived in complete isolation. During this time a light-bearing angel guarded and fed him. Finally, he arrived at a monastery, headed by the igumen Abba John, who lived in asceticism upon a pillar. He accepted the boy with love.
After a time, Saint Simeon asked the Elder John to permit him also to struggle upon a pillar. A new pillar was raised by the brethren of the monastery with the blessing of the igumen, near his pillar. Having completed the initiation of the seven-year-old boy into monasticism, Abba John placed him upon this pillar. The young ascetic, strengthened by the Lord, quickly grew spiritually, in his efforts surpassing even his experienced instructor. For his efforts, Saint Simeon received from God the gift of healing.
The fame of the young monk’s deeds began to spread beyond the bounds of the monastery. Monks and laypeople began to come to him from various places, desiring to hear his counsel and receive healing from their infirmities. The humble ascetic continued to pursue asceticism with instructions from his spiritual mentor Abba John.
When he was eleven, Simeon decided to pursue asceticism upon a higher pillar, the top of which was forty feet from the ground. The bishops of Antioch and Seleukia came to the place of the monk’s endeavors, and ordained him as a deacon. Then they permitted him to ascend the new pillar, on which Saint Simeon labored for eight years.
Saint Simeon prayed ardently for the Holy Spirit to descend upon him, and the holy prayer of the ascetic was heard. The Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a blazing light, filling the ascetic with divine wisdom. Along with oral instructions, Saint Simeon wrote letters about repentance, monasticism, about the Incarnation of Christ, and about the future Judgment.
After the death of his Elder, Saint Simeon’s life followed a certain pattern. From the rising of the sun until mid-afternoon he read books and copied Holy Scripture. Then he rose and prayed all night. When the new day began, he rested somewhat, then began his usual Rule of prayer.
Saint Simeon concluded his efforts on the second column, and by God’s dispensation, settled upon the Wonderful Mountain, having become an experienced Elder to the monks in his monastery. The ascent to Wonderful Mountain was marked by a vision of the Lord, standing atop a column. Saint Simeon continued his efforts at this place where he saw the Lord, at first upon a stone, and then upon a pillar.
Future events were revealed to Saint Simeon, and so he foretold the death of Archbishop Ephraim of Antioch, and the illness of Bishop Domnus, which overtook him as punishment for his lack of pity. Finally, Saint Simeon predicted an earthquake for the city of Antioch and urged all the inhabitants to repent of their sins.
Saint Simeon established a monastery on Wonderful Mountain,where the sick people he healed built a church in gratitude for the mercy shown them. The saint prayed for a spring of water for the needs of the monastery, and once during a shortage of grain, the granaries of the monastery were filled with wheat by his prayers.
In the year 560 the holy ascetic was ordained to the priesthood by Dionysius, Bishop of Seleukia. At age seventy-five Saint Simeon was warned by the Lord of his impending end. He summoned the brethren of the monastery, instructed them in a farewell talk, and peacefully fell asleep in the Lord in the year 596, having toiled as a stylite for sixty-eight years.
After death, the saint worked miracles just as he had when alive. He healed the blind, the lame and the leprous, saving many from wild beasts, casting out devils and raising the dead.
Venerable Niketas the Stylite, Wonderworker of Pereyaslavl, Zalesski
Saint Niketas (Nikḗtas) the Stylite of Pereyaslavl was a native of the city of Pereyaslavl-Zalessky, and he was in charge of collecting taxes. In 1152, Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy founded the city of Pereyaslavl and built a stone church dedicated to the All-Merciful Savior in that new place. Because of the cost of building the city and the church, more taxes had to be collected from the residents of the city. Niketas mercilessly overcharged people, keeping a large portion of the money for himself. This went on for many years. But the merciful Lord, Who desires that all sinners might be saved, led Niketas to repentance.
One day, he went to church and heard the words of the Prophet Isaiah: "Wash, and make yourselves clean, remove the iniquities from your souls before my eyes; cease your wickedness, learn to do good; diligently seek judgment; deliver those who suffer wrongs; defend the orphan, and obtain justice for the widow" (Isaiah 1:16-17).
He was shaken, as if by thunder, by these words which penetrated into the depths of his heart. Niketas did not sleep all night, remembering the words: "Wash, and make yourselves clean." In the morning, however, he decided to invite some friends to his home for some cheerful conversation, and to forget the horrors of the previous night. Once again, the Lord called Niketas to repentance. While his wife was preparing a meal for their guests, suddenly she saw some things rising to the surface in the boiling pot: blood, human heads, hands, and feet. Horrified, she called out to her husband, and Niketas saw the same thing. Suddenly, his sleeping conscience was awakened, and he realized that by overcharging people he was acting like a robber and a murderer. "Alas," he cried, "I have sinned much! O God, lead me on Your path!" With these words, he ran out of the house.
Three versts from Pereyaslavl there was a monastery dedicated to the Great Martyr Niketas (September 15) where Niketas went, shaken by the terrible vision. With tears he fell at the feet of the Igoumen saying: "Save a perishing soul."
Then the Igoumen decided to test the sincerity of his repentance, giving him his first obedience: to stand at the monastery gates for three days, confessing his sins to everyone who passed. With profound humility, Niketas fulfilled his first obedience. Three days later, the Igoumen remembered him and sent a monk to see what he was doing at the monastery gates. But the monk did not find Niketas there. He found him lying in a swamp, covered with mosquitoes and midges, and he was bleeding from their bites. Then the Igoumen came to the sufferer and said, "My son! what are you doing to yourself?"
"Father! Save a perishing soul," Niketas replied.
The Igoumen clothed Niketas in a hair shirt, received him into the monastery, and tonsured him as a monk. Embracing the monastic vows with all his heart, Saint Niketas spent his days and nights in prayer, chanting Psalms, and reading the Lives of the holy ascetics. With the Igoumen's blessing, he wore heavy chains, and there in the place of his monastic struggles, he dug two deep wells. Soon he increased his struggles. He dug a deep round pit and there he placed a stone upon which he stood, becoming a man of ardent prayer, like the ancient stylites. Only the blue sky and the night stars saw him at the bottom of his pillar-well, but there was a narrow underground passage beneath the wall of the church, and through it Niketas went to church for the Services.
Thus, by struggling well in the monastery of the Great Martyr Niketas , the Venerable Niketas also ended his life with a martyr's death. One night, some of the Saint's relatives came to him for his blessing, and were attracted by the glitter of his chains and crosses. They mistook them for silver, and decided to steal them. On the night of May 24, 1186, they removed part of the roof, killed the ascetic, took his crosses and chains, wrapped them in a rough canvas, and then ran away.
Before Matins, the sacristan, who came to Saint Niketas for the blessing, found the damaged roof and reported it to the Igoumen. The Igoumen and the brethren hurried to the Venerable Stylite and saw that he had been murdered, and his body was fragrant.
Meanwhile the killers stopped on the banks of the Volga River, and decided to divide their loot, but they were astonished to see that it was not made of silver but of iron, and threw the chains into the Volga. The Lord glorified these visible signs of the Saint's hidden struggles and works.
That night Simeon, a pious Elder of the Yaroslavl Monastery of Saints Peter and Paul, saw three bright rays of light over the Volga. He informed the Igoumen of the Monastery and the city officials. The assembled priests and numerous townspeople, who had come down to the river, saw three crosses and chains floating in the waters of the Volga. With reverence and prayers they were brought to the Monastery of the Great Martyr Niketas and laid on the grave of Saint Niketas . At the same time, there were miracles of healing.
Around 1420 – 1425, Saint Photios, the Metropolitan of Kiev (July 2), gave his blessing to uncover the relics of Saint Niketas. The Igoumen of the Monastery served a Moleben with the brethren, and then he opened the coffin, in which was an incorrupt body. Suddenly, the grave filled up with earth, and the relics remained in the ground.
Between 1511-1522 a chapel was built in honor of the Monastic Martyr Niketas, and in the XIX century Archpriest A. Svirelin composed an Akathist to the Saint.
Martyr Meletius Stratelates who suffered in Galatia, and those with him
Saint Meletius the General, Stephen, John, Serapion the Egyptian, Callinicus the Sorcerer, Theodore, Faustus and 1218 soldiers, women and children with them.
The holy martyr Meletius was a military commander of the Galatia district of Asia Minor during the reign of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161). He was a Christian and he prayed fervently that the Lord would put an end to the pagan error. Terrified by his prayer, the devils inhabiting the pagan temples entered into dogs, which frightened the inhabitants of the district with their howling.
Saint Meletius and his soldiers got rid of the mad dogs, and destroyed the temples. He was arrested and brought to trial before the governor Maximian. Since he refused to offer sacrifice to idols, Saint Meletius was tortured and he died confessing his faith in Christ. The tribunes of his regiment, the holy martyrs Stephen and John, were beheaded for their confession of Christ as true God.
The remaining soldiers of the regiment, also declaring themselves Christians, were beheaded by the sword, together with their wives and children. One thousand, two hundred eighteen men perished, although some historians put the number at 11,000.
The holy martyrs Theodore and Faustus were burned along with many others. Among the women and children who suffered are the holy martyrs Marciana, Susanna, Palladia, and the infants Kyriakos and Christian. Saint Callinicus, a former sorcerer, also suffered martyrdom. The names of some of the soldiers, and of the twelve tribunes are known: the holy martyrs Faustus, Festus, Marcellus, Theodore, Meletius, Sergius, Marcellinus, Felix, Photinus, Theodoriscus, Mercurius and Didymus.
The holy martyr Serapion was born in Egypt. He had come to Galatia and witnessed the martyrdom of Saint Meletius and his comrades. Seeing the bravery with which those who believed in Christ died for Him, Saint Serapion also believed, for which he was imprisoned. An angel of God visited Saint Serapion in prison and made him a bishop.
Saint Vincent of Lerins
Born in the late fourth century in Toulouse in Gaul, Saint Vincent initially served in the military, but later left the world to become a monk at the renowned Lérins Monastery, where he was ordained to the priesthood. He is widely known for his work, Commonitorium, which he wrote around the year 434 AD, in which he differentiated between the Church's teachings and the heresies of his time. He is remembered for writing that Christians must follow the true faith that has been held “everywhere, always, and by all.” He also defended the term “Theotokos” with regard to the Mother of God in opposition to the teachings of Nestorius that were condemned at the Third Ecumenical Council.
Saint Vincent died peacefully in 456 AD. His relics are preserved at Lérins.
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