Category Archives: Daily Readings

Daily Readings for Wednesday, December 07, 2022

WEDNESDAY OF THE 12TH WEEK

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

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Athenodoros the Martyr of Mesopotamia, Righteous Father Gerasimus, Ascetic of Euboia

ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO TIMOTHY 1:18-20; 2:8-15

Timothy, my son, this charge I commit to you in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenaios and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

LUKE 21:5-8, 10-11, 20-24

At that time, as some spoke to Jesus of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, "As for these things, which you see, the days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." And they asked him, "Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign when this is about to take place?" And he said, "Take heed that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, saying, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is at hand!' Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once.
Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it; for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written. Alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! For great distress shall be upon the earth and wrath upon this people; they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, was born in the year 340 into the family of the Roman prefect of Gaul (now France). Even in the saint’s childhood there appeared presentiments of his great future. Once, bees covered the face of the sleeping infant. They flew in and out of his mouth, leaving honey on his tongue. Soon they flew away so high that they could no longer be seen. Ambrose’s father said that the child would become something great when he reached manhood.

After the death of the father of the family, Ambrose journeyed to Rome, where the future saint and his brother Satyrius received an excellent education. About the year 370, upon completion of his course of study, Ambrose was appointed to the position of governor (consular prefect) of the districts of Liguria and Aemilia, though he continued to live at Mediolanum (now Milan).

In the year 374 Auxentius, the Arian Bishop of Mediolanum, died. This led to complications between the Orthodox and the Arians, since each side wanted to have its own bishop. Ambrose, as the chief city official, went to the church to resolve the dispute.

While he was speaking to the crowd, suddenly a child cried out, “Ambrose for bishop!” The people took up this chant. Ambrose, who at this time was still a catechumen, considered himself unworthy, and tried to refuse. He disparaged himself, and even tried to flee from Mediolanum. The matter went ultimately before the emperor Valentinian the Elder (364-375), whose orders Ambrose dared not disobey. He accepted holy Baptism from an Orthodox priest and, passing through all the ranks of the Church clergy in just seven days, on December 7, 374 he was consecrated Bishop of Mediolanum. He dispersed all his possessions, money and property for the adornment of churches, the upkeep of orphans and the poor, and he devoted himself to a strict ascetic life.

Ambrose combined strict temperance, intense vigilance and work within the fulfilling of his duties as archpastor. Saint Ambrose, defending the unity of the Church, energetically opposed the spread of heresy. Thus, in the year 379 he traveled off to establish an Orthodox bishop at Sirmium, and in 385-386 he refused to hand over the basilica of Mediolanum to the Arians.

The preaching of Saint Ambrose in defense of Orthodoxy was deeply influential. Another noted Father of the Western Church, Saint Augustine (June 15), bore witness to this, having accepted holy Baptism in the year 387 by the grace of the preaching of the bishop of Mediolanum.

Saint Ambrose also actively participated in civil matters. Thus, the emperor Gracian (375-383), having received from him the “Exposition of the Orthodox Faith” (De Fide), removed, by decree of the saint, the altar of Victory from the halls of the Senate at Rome, on which oaths were wont to be taken. Displaying a pastoral boldness, Saint Ambrose placed a severe penance on the emperor Theodosius I (379-395) for the massacre of innocent inhabitants of Thessalonica. For him there was no difference between emperor and commoner. Though he released Theodosius from the penance, the saint would not permit the emperor to commune at the altar, but compelled him to do public penance.

The fame of Bishop Ambrose and his actions attracted to him many followers from other lands. From far away Persia learned men came to him to ask him questions and absorb his wisdom. Fritigelda (Frigitil), queen of the military Germanic tribe of the Markomanni, which often had attacked Mediolanum, asked the saint to instruct her in the Christian Faith. The saint in his letter to her persuasively stated the dogmas of the Church. And having become a believer, the queen converted her own husband to Christianity and persuaded him to conclude a treaty of peace with the Roman Empire.

The saint combined strictness with an uncommon kindliness. Granted a gift of wonderworking, he healed many from sickness. One time at Florence, while staying at the house of Decentus, he resurrected a dead boy.

The repose of Saint Ambrose, who departed to the Lord on the night of Holy Pascha, was accompanied by many miracles. He even appeared in a vision to the children being baptized that night. The saint was buried in the Ambrosian basilica in Mediolanum, beneath the altar, between the Martyrs Protasius and Gervasius (October 14).

A zealous preacher and valiant defender of the Christian Faith, Saint Ambrose received particular renown as a Church writer. In dogmatic compositions he set forth the Orthodox teaching about the Holy Trinity, the Sacraments, and Repentance: “Five Books on the Faith” (De Fide); “Explication of the Symbol of the Faith” (Explanatio Symboli); “On the Incarnation” (De Incarnationis); “Three Books on the Holy Spirit” (De Spiritu Sancto); “On the Sacraments” (De Sacramento); “Two Books on Repentance” (De Paenitentia). In writings about Christian morality, he explained the excellence of Christian moral teaching compared to pagan moral teaching.

A well-known work of Saint Ambrose, “On the Duties of the Clergy” (De Officiis Ministrorum) evidences his deep awareness of pastoral duty. He stresses that those who serve in the Church should have not only the proper knowledge of Church services, but also the proper knowledge of moral precepts.

Saint Ambrose was also a reformer of Church singing. He introduced antiphonal singing (along the Eastern or Syrian form) into the Western Church, which became known as “Ambrosian Chant.” He also composed twelve hymns which were used during his lifetime. The hymn, “Thee, O God, we praise” (Te Deum), attributed to Saint Ambrose, entered into the divine services of the Orthodox Church (Molieben).

Venerable Anthony, Abbot of Siya, Novgorod

Saint Anthony of Siya, in the world Andrew, was born into a family of rich farmers in the village of Kekhta near the North Dvina river. In childhood he received a fine education, read much and learned iconography. After the death of his parents, Andrew went to Novgorod, and for five years worked for a boyar [nobleman] there. He later married, but his wife died after a year.

Then Andrew decided to devote himself to monasticism. He distributed his goods to the poor and as a wanderer came to the Pachomiev wilderness monastery at the River Kena. Saint Pachomius tonsured him with the name Anthony. Soon he was ordained a hieromonk, and Anthony, with the blessing of the igumen, celebrated the divine services by himself.

He went out with the other monks of the monastery to work for the monastery’s needs. Out of love for solitude Saint Anthony eventually left the Pachomiev wilderness, after choosing two companions from the monastic brethren, and he settled upon Mikhailov Island, on the one side washed by the River Sii, and on the other, by encircling lakes.

In this harsh frontier within the dense thickets Anthony built a chapel in 1520. But to clear the forest required difficult work, and Anthony’s companions began to grumble against him. Then quite unexpectedly an unknown man furnished them with the means of subsistence, offering money for good measure. The Siya monastery became famous, and inhabitants of surrounding villages often visited it. And again Saint Anthony, taking one disciple, withdrew to a still more remote place on Lake Palun. There, in a solitary cell, he dwelt for three years. When the igumen Theoctistus refused to guide the Siya monastery any longer, the brethren tried to persuade Saint Anthony to return to them. He finally acceded to the request of the monks, again became igumen and piously guided the monastery until his death in the year 1556, when he was seventy-nine years old.

Venerable Nilus of Stolbensk Lake

Saint Nilus of Stolobnoye was born into a peasant family in a small village of the Novgorod diocese. In the year 1505 he was tonsured at the monastery of Saint Savva of Krypetsk (August 28) near Pskov. After ten years in ascetic life at the monastery he set out to the River Sereml, on the side of the city of Ostashkova; here for thirteen years he led a strict ascetic life in incessant struggle against the snares of the devil, who took on the appearance of reptiles and wild beasts. Many of the inhabitants of the surrounding area started coming to the monk for instruction, but this became burdensome for him and he prayed God to show him a place for deeds of quietude. Once, after long prayer he heard a voice saying, “Nilus! Go to Lake Seliger. There upon the island of Stolobnoye you can be saved!” Saint Nilus learned the location of this island from people who visited him. When he arrived there, he was astonished by its beauty.

The island, in the middle of the lake, was covered over by dense forest. Saint Nilus found a small hill and dug out a cave, and after a while he built a hut, in which he lived for twenty-six years. To his exploits of strict fasting and stillness [ie. hesychia] he added another—he never lay down to sleep, but permitted himself only a light nap, leaning on a prop set into the wall of the cell.

The pious life of the monk frequently roused the envy of the Enemy of mankind, which evidenced itself through the spiteful action of the local inhabitants. One time someone set fire to the woods on the island where stood the saint’s hut, but the flames went out in miraculous manner upon reaching the hill. Another time robbers forced their way into the hut. The monk said to them: “All my treasure is in the corner of the cell.” In this corner stood an icon of the Mother of God, but the robbers began to search there for money and became blinded. Then with tears of repentance they begged for forgiveness.

Saint Nilus performed many other miracles. He would refuse gifts if the conscience of the one offering it to him was impure, or if they were in bodily impurity.

Aware of his approaching end, Saint Nilus prepared a grave for himself. At the time of his death, an igumen from one of the nearby monasteries came to the island and communed him with the Holy Mysteries. Before the igumen’s departure, Saint Nilus prayed for the last time, censing around the holy icons and the cell, and surrendered his soul to the Lord on December 7, 1554. The translation of his holy relics (now venerated at the church of the Icon of the Mother of God “Of the Sign” in the city of Ostashkova) took place in the year 1667, with feastdays established both on the day of his death, and on May 27.

Venerable John the Faster of the Kiev Near Caves

No information available at this time

Martyr Athenodorus of Mesopotamia

The Holy Martyr Athenodorus, from Syrian Mesopotamia, led a monastic life from his youth. Denounced as a Christian, he was arrested and condemned to fierce tortures by the governor of the land, Eleusius. Miracles accompanied the martyrdom of the saint, which converted many of the pagans to the Christian Faith.

He was beheaded in the year 304.

Venerable Paul the Obedient

We do not know when Saint Paul lived. There is only a short Life which says that he was the son of wealthy parents. He left secular life upon reaching maturity.

The appellation “Obedient” was bestowed upon the monk for his deep humility, and for the complete renunciation of his own will. Once, the monk stirred boiling tar with his hand, and received not the slightest burn from it. Some of the brethren regarded him as a God-bearing ascetic, but others became suspicious of him.

After fervent prayer, the monks received a unique vision proving that their brother was a true ascetic. By night they were all transported to Paradise and they conversed with Saint Paul, who permitted them to take a flower or twig with them as a remembrance. Awakening from sleep, they found in their hands the flowers and twigs from Paradise. After this Saint Paul went to Jerusalem, and then to Cyprus.

Having led a solitary life, he ended his life on Mount Paregoros [Mount Solace]. Before his death the voice of God said to him, “Ascend the mountain, Paul, and accept the end of life.”

Saint Philothea of Thrace, Protectress of Romania

Saint Philothea (Philofthea) of Argesh was born in Trnovo, the old capital of Bulgaria, around 1206. Her father was a farmer, and her mother was from Wallachia. She died when Philothea was still a child, and her father remarried.

The child was often punished by her stepmother, who accused her of being disobedient, and of giving their possesions away to the poor. Her father chastised her for this, but Philothea continued to attend church services and to do good to others, just as her mother had taught her. As she grew older, she was adorned with the virtues of prayer, virginity, and almsgiving.

Saint Philothea used to bring food to her father, who was out working in the fields. Not all of the food reached him, however, because the girl would give some of it to the poor children begging in the street. When he complained to his wife that she did not prepare enough food for him, she replied, “I send you plenty of food. Ask your daughter what she does with it.”

Becoming angry with Philothea, her father decided to spy on her to see what happened to the food. From a place of concealment, he saw her giving food to the poor children who came to her. In a violent rage, he took the axe from his belt and threw it at the twelve-year-old girl, hitting her in the leg. The wound was mortal, and she soon gave her pure soul into God’s hands.

The man was filled with fear and remorse, and tried to lift his daughter’s body from the ground, but it became as heavy as a rock. Then the wretch ran to the Archbishop of Trnovo to confess his sin and explain what had happened. The Archbishop and his clergy went with candles and incense to take up the martyr’s body and bring it to the cathedral, but even they were unable to lift it.

The Archbishop realized that Saint Philothea did not wish to remain in her native land, so he began to name various monasteries, churches, and cathedrals to see where she wished to go. Not until he named the Monastery of Curtea de Argesh in Romania were they able to lift her holy relics and place them in a coffin. The Archbishop wrote to the Romanian Voievode Radu Negru, asking him to accept the saint’s relics.

The Archbishop and his clergy carried the holy relics in procession as far as the Danube, where they were met by Romanian clergy, monastics, and the faithful. Then they were carried to the Curtea de Argesh Monastery.

Many people have been healed at the tomb of Saint Philothea in a small chapel in the belltower behind the monastery church, and those who entreat her intercession receive help from her. Each year on December 7 there is a festal pilgrimage to the Monastery, and people come from all over Romania. The relics of Saint Philothea are carried around the courtyard in procession, and there are prayers for the sick.

The holy Virgin Martyr Philothea is venerated in Romania, Bulgaria, and throughout the Orthodox world.

Venerable Gregory, founder of Grigoriou Monastery, Mount Athos

Saint Gregory of Mount Athos was born in Serbia, and pursued asceticism on Mt Athos. He built and dedicated the monastery of Saint Nicholas, which was later renamed Grigoriou in his honor.

In the records of Mt Athos the saint’s signature dating from 1405 was discovered. According to Tradition, the relics of Saint Gregory were taken from Athos by Serbian monks.

“Vladimir” Icon of the Mother of God of Seliger

The Vladimir Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos of Seliger comes from the island of Seliger in the Tver Province of Russia.

Daily Readings for Tuesday, December 06, 2022

NICHOLAS THE WONDERWORKER, ARCHBISHOP OF MYRA

ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS

Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra, Nicholas the New Martyr of Asia Minor

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 13:17-21

Brethren, obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account. Let them do this joyfully, and not sadly, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in you that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

LUKE 6:17-23

At that time, Jesus stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.”

Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia

Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia is famed as a great saint pleasing unto God. He was born in the city of Patara in the region of Lycia (on the south coast of the Asia Minor peninsula), and was the only son of pious parents Theophanes and Nonna, who had vowed to dedicate him to God.

As the fruit of the prayer of his childless parents, the infant Nicholas from the very day of his birth revealed to people the light of his future glory as a wonderworker. His mother, Nonna, after giving birth was immediately healed from illness. The newborn infant, while still in the baptismal font, stood on his feet three hours, without support from anyone, thereby honoring the Most Holy Trinity. Saint Nicholas from his infancy began a life of fasting, and on Wednesdays and Fridays he would not accept milk from his mother until after his parents had finished their evening prayers.

From his childhood Nicholas thrived on the study of Divine Scripture; by day he would not leave church, and by night he prayed and read books, making himself a worthy dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. Bishop Nicholas of Patara rejoiced at the spiritual success and deep piety of his nephew. He ordained him a reader, and then elevated Nicholas to the priesthood, making him his assistant and entrusting him to instruct the flock.

In serving the Lord the youth was fervent of spirit, and in his proficiency with questions of faith he was like an Elder, who aroused the wonder and deep respect of believers. Constantly at work and vivacious, in unceasing prayer, the priest Nicholas displayed great kind-heartedness towards the flock, and towards the afflicted who came to him for help, and he distributed all his inheritance to the poor.

There was a certain formerly rich inhabitant of Patara, whom Saint Nicholas saved from great sin. The man had three grown daughters, and in desperation he planned to sell their bodies so they would have money for food. The saint, learning of the man’s poverty and of his wicked intention, secretly visited him one night and threw a sack of gold through the window. With the money the man arranged an honorable marriage for his daughter. Saint Nicholas also provided gold for the other daughters, thereby saving the family from falling into spiritual destruction. In bestowing charity, Saint Nicholas always strove to do this secretly and to conceal his good deeds.

The Bishop of Patara decided to go on pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, and entrusted the guidance of his flock to Saint Nicholas, who fulfilled this obedience carefully and with love. When the bishop returned, Nicholas asked his blessing for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Along the way the saint predicted a storm would arise and threaten the ship. Saint Nicholas saw the devil get on the ship, intending to sink it and kill all the passengers. At the entreaty of the despairing pilgrims, he calmed the waves of the sea by his prayers. Through his prayer a certain sailor of the ship, who had fallen from the mast and was mortally injured, was also restored to health.

When he reached the ancient city of Jerusalem and came to Golgotha, Saint Nicholas gave thanks to the Savior. He went to all the holy places, worshiping at each one. One night on Mount Sion, the closed doors of the church opened by themselves for the great pilgrim. Going round the holy places connected with the earthly service of the Son of God, Saint Nicholas decided to withdraw into the desert, but he was stopped by a divine voice urging him to return to his native country. He returned to Lycia, and yearning for a life of quietude, the saint entered into the brotherhood of a monastery named Holy Sion, which had been founded by his uncle. But the Lord again indicated another path for him, “Nicholas, this is not the vineyard where you shall bear fruit for Me. Return to the world, and glorify My Name there.” So he left Patara and went to Myra in Lycia.

Upon the death of Archbishop John, Nicholas was chosen as Bishop of Myra after one of the bishops of the Council said that a new archbishop should be revealed by God, not chosen by men. One of the elder bishops had a vision of a radiant Man, Who told him that the one who came to the church that night and was first to enter should be made archbishop. He would be named Nicholas. The bishop went to the church at night to await Nicholas. The saint, always the first to arrive at church, was stopped by the bishop. “What is your name, child?” he asked. God’s chosen one replied, “My name is Nicholas, Master, and I am your servant.”

After his consecration as archbishop, Saint Nicholas remained a great ascetic, appearing to his flock as an image of gentleness, kindness and love for people. This was particularly precious for the Lycian Church during the persecution of Christians under the emperor Diocletian (284-305). Bishop Nicholas, locked up in prison together with other Christians for refusing to worship idols, sustained them and exhorted them to endure the fetters, punishment and torture. The Lord preserved him unharmed. Upon the accession of Saint Constantine (May 21) as emperor, Saint Nicholas was restored to his flock, which joyfully received their guide and intercessor.

Despite his great gentleness of spirit and purity of heart, Saint Nicholas was a zealous and ardent warrior of the Church of Christ. Fighting evil spirits, the saint made the rounds of the pagan temples and shrines in the city of Myra and its surroundings, shattering the idols and turning the temples to dust.

In the year 325 Saint Nicholas was a participant in the First Ecumenical Council. This Council proclaimed the Nicean Symbol of Faith, and he stood up against the heretic Arius with the likes of Saints Sylvester the Bishop of Rome (January 2), Alexander of Alexandria (May 29), Spyridon of Trimythontos (December 12) and other Fathers of the Council.

Saint Nicholas, fired with zeal for the Lord, assailed the heretic Arius with his words, and also struck him upon the face. For this reason, he was deprived of the emblems of his episcopal rank and placed under guard. But several of the holy Fathers had the same vision, seeing the Lord Himself and the Mother of God returning to him the Gospel and omophorion. The Fathers of the Council agreed that the audacity of the saint was pleasing to God, and restored the saint to the office of bishop.

Having returned to his own diocese, the saint brought it peace and blessings, sowing the word of Truth, uprooting heresy, nourishing his flock with sound doctrine, and also providing food for their bodies. The face of Saint Nicholas resembled that of an Angel, resplendent with divine grace. A brilliant ray shone from his face, like that which shone from the face of Moses (Exodus 34:29), so that those who looked at him were astonished. Whoever was oppressed by some affliction or passion of the soul had only to behold the Saint, and his sorrow was eased at once. As for those who conversed with him, they soon found themselves advancing on the path of virtue. Not only were the faithful moved to compassion, but unbelievers as well, and they directed their steps on the path of salvation when they heard him speak. The evil of unbelief which had been implanted in their hearts since childhood was uprooted, and in its place, the word of truth was sown.

Even during his life the saint worked many miracles. One of the greatest was the deliverance from death of three men unjustly condemned by the Governor, who had been bribed. The saint boldly went up to the executioner and took his sword, already suspended over the heads of the condemned. The Governor, denounced by Saint Nicholas for his wrong doing, repented and begged for forgiveness.

Witnessing this remarkable event were three military officers, who were sent to Phrygia by the emperor Constantine to put down a rebellion. They did not suspect that soon they would also be compelled to seek the intercession of Saint Nicholas. Evil men slandered them before the emperor, and the officers were sentenced to death. Appearing to Saint Constantine in a dream, Saint Nicholas called on him to overturn the unjust sentence of the military officers.

He worked many other miracles, and struggled many long years at his labor. Through the prayers of the saint, the city of Myra was rescued from a terrible famine. He appeared to a certain Italian merchant and left him three gold pieces as a pledge of payment. He requested him to sail to Myra and deliver grain there. More than once, the saint saved those drowning in the sea, and provided release from captivity and imprisonment.

Having reached old age, Saint Nicholas peacefully fell asleep in the Lord. His venerable relics were preserved incorrupt in the local cathedral church and flowed with curative myrrh, from which many received healing. In the year 1087, his relics were transferred to the Italian city of Bari, where they rest even now (See May 9).

The name of the great saint of God, the hierarch and wonderworker Nicholas, a speedy helper and suppliant for all hastening to him, is famed in every corner of the earth, in many lands and among many peoples. In Russia there are a multitude of cathedrals, monasteries and churches consecrated in his name. There is, perhaps, not a single city without a church dedicated to him.

The first Russian Christian prince Askold (+ 882) was baptized in 866 by Patriarch Photius (February 6) with the name Nicholas. Over the grave of Askold, Saint Olga (July 11) built the first temple of Saint Nicholas in the Russian Church at Kiev. Primary cathedrals were dedicated to Saint Nicholas at Izborsk, Ostrov, Mozhaisk, and Zaraisk. At Novgorod the Great, one of the main churches of the city, the Nikolo-Dvorischensk church, later became a cathedral.

Famed and venerable churches and monasteries dedicated to Saint Nicholas are found at Kiev, Smolensk, Pskov, Toropetsa, Galich, Archangelsk, Great Ustiug, Tobolsk. Moscow had dozens of churches named for the saint, and also three monasteries in the Moscow diocese: the Nikolo-Greek (Staryi) in the Chinese-quarter, the Nikolo-Perervinsk and the Nikolo-Ugreshsk. One of the chief towers of the Kremlin was named the Nikolsk.

Many of the churches devoted to the saint were those established at market squares by Russian merchants, sea-farers and those who traveled by land, venerating the wonderworker Nicholas as a protector of all those journeying on dry land and sea. They sometimes received the name among the people of “Nicholas soaked.”

Many village churches in Russia were dedicated to the wonderworker Nicholas, venerated by peasants as a merciful intercessor before the Lord for all the people in their work. And in the Russian land Saint Nicholas did not cease his intercession. Ancient Kiev preserves the memory about the miraculous rescue of a drowning infant by the saint. The great wonderworker, hearing the grief-filled prayers of the parents for the loss of their only child, took the infant from the waters, revived him and placed him in the choir-loft of the church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) before his wonderworking icon. In the morning the infant was found safe by his thrilled parents, praising Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker.

Many wonderworking icons of Saint Nicholas appeared in Russia and came also from other lands. There is the ancient Byzantine embroidered image of the saint, brought to Moscow from Novgorod, and the large icon painted in the thirteenth century by a Novgorod master.

Two depictions of the wonderworker are especially numerous in the Russian Church: Saint Nicholas of Zaraisk, portrayed in full-length, with his right hand raised in blessing and with a Gospel (this image was brought to Ryazan in 1225 by the future wife of Prince Theodore, the Byzantine Princess Eupraxia, who perished in 1237 with her husband and infant son during the incursion of Batu); and Saint Nicholas of Mozhaisk, also in full stature, with a sword in his right hand and a city in his left. This recalls the miraculous rescue of the city of Mozhaisk from an invasion of enemies, through the prayers of the saint. It is impossible to list all the grace-filled icons of Saint Nicholas, or to enumerate all his miracles.

Saint Nicholas is the patron of travelers, and we pray to him for deliverance from floods, poverty, or any misfortunes. He has promised to help those who remember his parents, Theophanes and Nonna.

Saint Nicholas is also commemorated on May 9 (The transfer of his relics) and on July 29 (his nativity).

In Italy, the relics of Saint Nicholas are in the Roman Catholic Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari; and his left arm is in Saint Nicholas Roman Catholic Church of Rimini.

In Russia, relics of Saint Nicholas are to be found in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, and in the Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg.

The right hand of Saint Nicholas is in the church of Saint George the New in Bucharest, Romania.

In Greece, portions of the Saint's relics are in the Monasteries of Saint Nicholas Apo Bathia in Euboia, and Phaneromenē in Salaminos. A piece of the Saint's left arm is in the Metropolitan church of Volos. One of the Saint's teeth is at Kalabryta Monastery in the Peloponnēsos.

Saint Maximus, Metropolitan of Kiev

Saint Maximus, successor of Metropolitan Cyril III of Kiev (1243-1280), was a Greek by birth, and he arrived in Rus, then suffering under the Mongol (Tatar) Yoke, in 1283 as Metropolitan. The saint decided to remain at Kiev, but the city was completely devastated by the plundering incursions of the Tatars. Metropolitan Maximus withdrew to Briansk, and from there to Suzdal. During his visit to Volhynia the saint met with Saint Peter the igumen of the Rata monastery, (December 21), who would succeed him as metropolitan.

In 1295 the saint deposed James from the bishop’s cathedra at Vladimir and replaced him with Simon. During these terrible times the throne of the Great Prince was first at Vladimir, then at Pereslavl, then at Tver.

Apprehensive lest he insult the South Russian princes by moving to the north, the saint offered fervent prayers to the Mother of God, and She indicated Vladimir as the place of his residence.

In the year 1299 Metropolitan Maximus went to Vladimir, and in the following year he established Saint Theoctistus (December 23) as Bishop of Novgorod. In 1301, Metropolitan Maximus was in Constantinople for a Patriarchal Council, where at the urging of Saint Theognostus, Bishop of Zaraisk, he set forth questions concerning the needs of the Russian Church to be resolved by the Council.

Recognizing the need to build up the strength of subjugated Rus, the saint urged Prince Yuri Danilovich of Moscow to make peace with the holy Prince Michael of Tver. He also advised Yuri to journey to the Horde to receive the throne. In 1304, the saint installed Saint Michael of Tver (November 22) upon the Great-princely throne of Vladimir.

Setting an example of intense spiritual life for others, Metropolitan Maximus was concerned about the spiritual growth of his proverbial flock. Thus, the saint established rules for fasting for other times in addition to Great Lent. He ordained it for the Apostles’, Dormition and Nativity lenten periods, and he defined when fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays is allowed (in Russia until the fourteenth century they did not fast on the Midfeast and Leave-taking of Pascha).

The holy metropolitan was particularly concerned with upholding lawful marriage: “I write, therefore, about this, so that you my children, born and newly-sanctified in the baptismal font, will take your wife from the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, for the woman is for the salvation of the man. If you cleave to them in promiscuity without marriage, does it benefit you? No, but rather beseech and implore them, whether young or old, to be married in the Church.”

The saint reposed on December 6, 1305, and his body was buried in the Dormition cathedral in Vladimir. A gilded covering was built over the saint’s grave.

The Maximov Icon of the Mother of God (April 18) was placed on the wall above the grave of the saint. It was painted in the year 1299 following a vision to Metropolitan Maximus. A description of this vision was inscribed on the left side of the crypt.

Daily Readings for Monday, December 05, 2022

SABBAS THE SANCTIFIED

ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS

Sabbas the Sanctified, Holy Martyr Diogenes, Philotheos the Righteous of Mount Athos, Nektarios the Bulgarian

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 5:22-26; 6:1-2

Brethren, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

MATTHEW 11:27-30

The Lord said to his disciples, "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Venerable Savva the Sanctified

Saint Savva the Sanctified was born in the fifth century at Cappadocia of pious Christian parents, John and Sophia, and his father was a military commander. Journeying to Alexandria on military matters, John and Sophia left their five-year-old son Savva in the care of an uncle. When the boy was eight years old, he entered the nearby Monastery of Saint Flavian. The gifted child quickly learned to read and became an expert on the Holy Scriptures. His parents urged Saint Savva to return to the world and enter into marriage, but all in vain.

When he was seventeen years old he was tonsured as a monk, and attained such perfection in fasting and prayer that God found him worthy of the gift of working miracles. After spending ten years at the Monastery of Saint Flavian, he went to Jerusalem, and from there to the Monastery of Saint Euthymios the Great (January 20). Saint Euthymios, however, sent the young man to Abba Theoktistos, the head of a nearby monastery with a strict cenobitic Rule. Saint Savva lived in obedience at this monastery until the age of thirty.

After the death of Elder Theoktistos, his successor blessed Savva to seclude himself in a cave. But on Saturdays, he left his hermitage and came to the Monastery, where he took part in the Divine Services and ate with the brethren. After a certain time, Saint Savva received permission not to leave his hermitage at all, and he struggled in the cave for five years.

Saint Euthymios directed the young monk's life, and seeing his spiritual maturity, he began to take him to the Rouba wilderness with him. They left on January 14, and remained there until Palm Sunday. Saint Euthymios called Saint Savva a Child-Elder, and encouraged him to grow in the monastic virtues.

When Saint Euthymios fell asleep in the Lord (+ 473), Saint Savva withdrew from the Lavra and moved to a cave near the monastery of Saint Gerasimos of Jordan (March 4). After several years, disciples began to gather around Saint Savva. As the number of monks increased, a Lavra sprang up. Guided by a pillar of fire which appeared before him as he was walking, Saint Savva found a spacious cave in the form of a church.

The holy Elder founded several more monasteries. Many miracles took place through his prayers: at the Lavra, a spring of water welled up, during a time of drought there was abundant rain, and the sick and those possessed by demons were also healed. Saint Savva composed the first monastic Rule of Church Services, the “Jerusalem Typikon," followed by all the Palestinian monasteries. The Saint surrendered his soul to God in the year 532.

Saint Savva is depicted holding a scroll which reads: "He who loves God disdains corruptible things, and prefers the knowledge of Him."

Saint Gurias, Archbishop of Kazan

Saint Gurias, Archbishop of Kazan, (in the world Gregory Rugotin), was the first archbishop of the Kazan diocese, established in 1555. He was born in the town of Radonezh outside Moscow into the family of a courtier. His parents were not wealthy, and so from his early years he had to serve Prince Ivan Penkov as steward of his estates.

From his youth, Gregory was pious, humble and gentle, and he preserved his chastity. Accused of improprieties with the prince’s wife, Gregory was locked up in an underground dungeon for two years. This undermined his health, but it also intensified and deepened his religious fervor. In prison, he wrote a small booklet to teach children how to read and write. He donated the proceeds from his primer to the needy.

Released from prison, Gregory was tonsured with the name Gurias at the Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk monastery, known for its strict monastic rule. In 1543, he was chosen by the brethren as igumen of this monastery. He administered it for almost nine years, and then he resigned as igumen and lived for two years as a simple monk.

Before becoming bishop, Saint Gurias directed the Trinity Selizharov monastery in Tver diocese for one year. He was chosen by lot to the See of Kazan. Assisted by Saint Barsanuphius (April 11), Saint Gurias devoted himself to missionary activity. In his eight years as bishop there, four monasteries were organized, and the Annunciation cathedral church and ten more city churches were built.

In 1561 the saint fell grievously ill and could no longer perform the divine services himself. On feastdays they carried him into the church, and he either sat or lay down, since he did not have the strength to walk or even stand.

Shortly before his death (1563), he received the great schema from Saint Barsanuphius, and he was buried in the Savior-Transfiguration monastery. On October 4, 1595, the incorrupt relics of the holy hierarchs Gurias and Barsanuphius were uncovered. Saint Hermogenes, Metropolitan of Kazan (May 12), was present at the uncovering of their relics, and he described this event in the lives of these saints.

On June 20, 1613, the relics of Saint Gurias were transferred from the Savior-Transfiguration monastery to the Annunciation cathedral church. At present, the relics rest in Kazan in a cemetery church named for the holy Princes Theodore of Murom and his sons David and Constantine (May 21).

Martyr Anastasius the Fuller of Salona in Dalmatia

The Martyr Anastasius the Fuller lived at Salona in Dalmatia during the third century. He was arrested and brought to trial because of his missionary activity in Salona. Saint Anastasius, boldly and without fear, confessed Christ as the true God and Creator of all. He even painted a cross on his door during the persecution of Diocletian (284-311).

Saint Anastasius was sentenced to death by the decision of the court, and the pagans tied a stone around his neck and threw his body into the sea. A righteous Christian, the rich matron Ascalopia, found the body of Saint Anastasius and reverently buried him in her estate church. The relics of the holy martyr were glorified by many miracles.

Saint Anastasius the Fuller is also commemorated on October 25.

Venerable Karion (Cyrion) and his son, Venerable Zachariah, of Egypt

Saint Karion lived in Scetis in Egypt during the fourth century. He became a monk and left his wife and two children behind in the world. When a famine struck Egypt, Saint Karion’s wife brought the children to the monastery and complained of their poverty and difficulties. The saint took his son, Zachariah, and the daughter remained with the mother.

He raised his son at the skete, and everyone knew that Zachariah was his son. When the lad grew up, the brethren began to grumble. The father and his son then went into the Thebaid, but complaints about them arose there, too. Then Saint Zachariah went to Lake Nitria, immersing himself in the foul-smelling water up to his nostrils and he stayed there for an hour. His face and his body were covered with welts, and he looked like a leper. Even his own father hardly recognized him.

The next time Saint Zachariah came for Holy Communion, it was revealed to the Saint Isidore the Presbyter what Zachariah had done. The holy priest said to him, “Child, last Sunday you communed as a man, but now you receive as an angel.”

After the death of his father, Saint Zachariah began to struggle together with Saint Moses the Black (August 28). “What must I do, to be saved?” asked Saint Moses. Hearing this, Saint Zachariah fell to his knees and said: “Why do you ask this of me, Father?”

“Believe me, my child, Zachariah,” Saint Moses continued, “I saw the Holy Spirit come down upon you, and that is why I ask you.”

Saint Zachariah then took the koukoulion (cowl) from his head, trampling it under his feet. After putting it on again he said, “If a man is not willing to be treated this way, he cannot be a monk.”

Saint Moses asked Zachariah just before his death, “What do you see, brother?”

“Isn’t it better if I keep silent, Father?” Saint Zachariah replied.

“Yes, child, remain silent”, agreed Saint Moses.

When the soul of Saint Zachariah was leaving his body, Abba Isidore lifted his gaze toward the heavens and said, “Rejoice, Zachariah my child, for the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven are opened to you.”

Saint Zachariah died towards the end of the fourth century and was buried in Skete with the Fathers.

Venerable Nectarius of Bitolya and Mount Athos

Saint Nectarius of Mount Athos was raised by his father, who became a monk at the monastery of the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian in Bitolya (Bulgaria). He himself was tonsured on Mount Athos, and performed his obedience under experienced spiritual guides, Saint Philotheus and the Elder Dionysius. Like Job, the monk experienced exceptional bodily afflictions, and he peacefully gave up his soul to the Lord on December 5, 1500. The holy relics of the saint were uncovered four years later, exuding a wondrous fragrance.

Venerable Philotheus of Karyes, Mount Athos

Saint Philotheus of Karyes lived an ascetic life on Athos in the cell of Iagari near Karyes. He was the Spiritual Father of Saint Nectarius. Because of the purity of his life, he was granted the gift of clairvoyance.

Monastic Martyrs of Karyes

The Holy Monastic Martyrs of Karyes were martyred by the Latins who came with fire and sword onto Mount Athos during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Michael Paleologos (1259-1282), an apostate from Orthodoxy.

Bursting in upon the Karyes monastery, the Latins burned and devastated the Church of the Protaton [the only basilica on the Holy Mountain, built in 965], “leaving no one alive.” The Protos of the Holy Mountain, who had denounced the Latin rationalising as heresy, was after much torture hanged before the Protaton at the place called Chalkhos. Those hidden in caves around Karyes were cut down with swords. See October 10.

Saint Crispina

Saint Crispina lived at Thacora (Tagora) in Africa, and was arrested for professing Christianity. The proconsul Annius Anullinus presided at her trial at Theveste (or Tebessa) in December of 304.

Anullinus asked her if she was aware that she was required by law to offer sacrifice to the gods for the welfare of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. She said that she did not know of this decree, and that her Christian faith would not allow her to offer sacrifice to false gods.

“Turn away from this superstition,” Anullinus said, “and submit to the sacred rites of the Roman gods.”

Saint Crispina replied that she knew no other god but the God worshiped by Christians. The proconsul threatened her with torture, and the saint said that she would gladly endure this for the sake of Christ.

Anullinus told her to stop being stubborn and to obey the edict. Crispina answered, “I will obey the edict given me by my Lord Jesus Christ.”

The proconsul repeated his threat of torture, saying that she would be forced to obey the edict. He also pointed out that the entire province of Africa had offered sacrifice, but Saint Crispina remained firm in her faith, saying that she would never offer sacrifice to demons.

Enraged that she would not accept the pagan gods, Anullinus said that she would be forced to bow before the idols and to offer incense. The courageous woman retorted that she would never do so as long as she lived.

Then the proconsul sought to persuade her that it would not be a sacrilege to offer sacrifice to the gods as required by law. She said, “May those gods, who have not made heaven and earth, perish.”

Anullinus urged Crispina to respect the Roman religion, but she said, “I have told you again and again that I am ready to endure any tortures rather than worship the idols which are the work of men’s hands.”

Anullinus told her that she spoke blasphemy and was not acting in a way which would ensure her safety. He then tried to humiliate her by ordering her head to be shaved. The holy martyr replied, “If I were not seeking my own well-being, I would not be on trial before you now. Let your gods speak, then I shall believe.”

The proconsul told her she could either live a long life, or die in agony before being beheaded. Saint Crispina told him, “I would thank my God if I obtained this. I would gladly lose my head for the Lord’s sake, for I refuse to offer sacrifice to those ridiculous deaf and dumb statues.”

Anullinus lost patience with her and ordered that the minutes of the trial be read back before he pronounced sentence. “Since Crispina persists in her superstition and refuses to offer sacrifice to the gods in accordance with our law, I order her to be executed by the sword.”

Saint Crispina said, “Thanks be to God, Who has deigned to free me from your hands.” She made the Sign of the Cross and stretched forth her neck to the executioner.

Saint Crispina was beheaded on December 5, 304 in accordance with the fourth edict of Diocletian. Saint Augustine mentions her in Sermons 286 and 354.

Daily Readings for Sunday, December 04, 2022

10TH SUNDAY OF LUKE

ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, DAIRY, EGGS

10th Sunday of Luke, Barbara the Great Martyr, John the Righteous of Damascus, New Hieromartyr Seraphim, Bishop of the Phanar in Greece, Juliana the Martyr of Heliopolis, Alexander Hotovitzky, New Hieromartyr of Russia, Missionary to America

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 3:23-29; 4:1-5

Brethren, before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

LUKE 13:10-17

At that time, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her and said to her, "Woman, you are freed from your infirmity." And he laid his hands upon her, and immediately she was made straight, and she praised God. But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the sabbath, said to the people, "There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be healed, and not on the sabbath day." Then the Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?" As he said this, all his adversaries were put to shame; and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

Glorification of the Priestmartyr Alexander Hotovitzky

The New Martyr of Russia Alexander Hotovitzky was born on February 11, 1872 in the city of Kremenetz, into the pious family of Archpriest Alexander, who was Rector of the Volhynia Theological Seminary and would later be long remembered in the hearts of the Orthodox inhabitants of Volhynia as a good shepherd. Young Alexander received a good Christian upbringing from his parents, who instilled in him love for the Orthodox Church and for the people of God.

The future pastor was educated at the Volhynia Seminary and the Saint Petersburg Theological Academy, from which he graduated with a Master’s degree in 1895.

After graduation from the Academy, he was sent for missionary service to the Diocese of the Aleutians and North America, where he was assigned to the position of reader at the newly-established Saint Nicholas Orthodox Church in New York City. Following his marriage to Maria Scherbuhina, a graduate of the Pavlovsk Institute in Saint Petersburg, the Hieromartyr Alexander was ordained to the diaconate, and soon after, on February 25, 1896, to the priesthood by Bishop Nicholas (Ziorov) of the Aleutians, whom Father Alexander would always later remember with gratitude and love.

The ordination took place at the diocesan cathedral in San Francisco. In his address to the newly-ordained Father Alexander, Bishop Nicholas explained his selection of the new priest for ordained ministry in these words:

“Your special sense of decency, your good upbringing, your noble idealism, and your sincere piety immediately caused me to look favorably upon you and compelled me to single you out among the young people, with whom you used to visit me in Saint Petersburg…I could see that you had that special spark from God, which makes any service an action truly done for God’s sake, and without which a vocation becomes soul-less and dead work…Your first experience in preaching has shown you the power of this kind of inspiration: you saw how the people gathered around you and how attentively they stood and listened at length to your discourses… Why did these people listen to you rather than going to hear other preachers? Clearly the spark which burns within you attracts the hearts of these people like a magnet.”

A week after his ordination, the young priest returned to New York to assume the pastorate of the parish where he had previously served as reader. From 1898 to 1907, the New Martyr Alexander served as a pastor under the omophorion of Bishop Tikhon. Saint Tikhon, who, in the tragic year of 1917, was to be elevated by Divine Providence to the primatial see as Patriarch of Moscow, valued highly Father Alexander’s sincere piety, his gift of pastoral love, and his multifaceted theological erudition. The spectrum of his activity in the United States was quite broad and very fruitful. He was successful in missionary service, primarily among Uniates newly-emigrated from Galicia and Carpathian Rus. He was also one of the closest collaborators of the Orthodox archpastors in America and represented the Orthodox Church before American religious institutions and meetings.

Father Alexander’s missionary work was not without many temptations and sorrows. Archbishop, later Metropolitan, Platon (Rozhdestvensky) expressed gratitude for the Passion-bearer Alexander’s labors in America in an address delivered at the Divine Liturgy on February 26, 1914. Bidding farewell to Father Alexander, the Archbishop said, “One morning, during the years we worked together, you came to my room and, without saying much, unbuttoned your shirt, revealing a very large, bluish, bloody abrasion on your chest. That wound from a fanatic, who in a fit of rage attacked you wildly with a stick, followed the meeting of Russian people at which you had encouraged your own ethnic brother to renounce the pernicious Unia with Rome… My entire being was shaken to the core and I was profoundly moved, for before me at that moment was a genuine example of witness for Christ.”

Through Father Alexander’s efforts, Orthodox parishes were established in Philadelphia, Yonkers, and Passaic as well as other large and small towns throughout North America. The parishioners of these churches were cradle Orthodox whom fate had brought to the New World, as well as Carpatho-Russians converted from the Unia and former Protestant converts to the Orthodox Church.

An important contribution to the witness of the truth of Orthodoxy before heterodox American society was made by the American Orthodox Messenger, which was published in English and Russian under Father Alexander’s editorship. Articles by the editor regularly appeared in this journal.

The New Martyr Alexander actively participated in the establishment of an Orthodox diocesan mutual aid society and at various times, he served as treasurer, first secretary, and president of this organization. The society provided material aid to Austrian Carpatho-Russians, Macedonian Slavs, Russian troops in Manchuria, and to Russian prisoners of war in Japanese camps.

Father Alexander also took upon himself the ascetical burden of constructing the architecturally remarkable and majestic Saint Nicholas Cathedral in New York to replace the small parish church. The cathedral was to become an adornment of the city. He visited Orthodox communities throughout America soliciting funds for the construction of the Cathedral. In 1901, he also traveled to his homeland, Russia, for this purpose. In the annals of Saint Nicholas Church, which in 1903 became the diocesan Cathedral, it is recorded that, “This Cathedral was established and constructed in the City of New York in North America, under the supervision and through the efforts and labors of the most honorable Archpriest Father Alexander Hotovitzky in the year of Our Lord 1902.”

On February 26, 1906, Orthodox America celebrated the tenth anniversary of priestly service of Archpriest Alexander, one of its most remarkable pastors. Bishop Tikhon greeted the jubilarian with these words:

“As you remember your ordination as a priest of God at this anniversary, you are doubtless unwillingly contemplating how you have used your God-given talents, and asking yourself if the Grace of God was bestowed on you in vain and how far you have advanced on the path of moral perfection. As you judge yourself in this way, you are at the same time the judge and the accused. In order for a judgment to be fair, the testimony of onlookers, the witnesses, must be heard. Now they are speaking before you—listen to them. Thanks be to the Lord! We just heard their eloquent and heartfelt testimony praising you. For myself as your superior, I can testify that you have proven to be trustworthy, and have justified the expectations which were hoped for at your ordination.”

The sacrificial and dedicated pastoral service of the New Martyr Alexander in America was concluded on February 26, 1914, exactly eighteen years after his ordination to the priesthood. In his farewell address, Father Alexander said, “Farewell, American Orthodox Rus—my dear Mother, the Holy American Church. I, your ever-grateful son, bow fully to the ground before you. You gave birth to me spiritually, you nurtured me, from your depths you inspired me by your strength. Through the shining witness of your founders, through the enlightened apostolic teachings of your preachers, through the fervor of your faithful flock, you have given me the greatest possible joy—to be your son.”

From 1914 to 1917, Father Alexander served as a priest in Helsinki, Finland, where the majority of the population was Protestant. Although Finland was then part of the Russian Empire, the Orthodox clergy there had to exert great efforts to protect the Orthodox Karelians from the proselytic expansionism of the Finnish Lutherans. In Finland, the New Martyr Alexander was a loyal, active, and dedicated assistant to his archpastor—Sergius (Stragorodsky), the future Patriarch.

In August 1917, Archpriest Alexander was transferred to Moscow and assigned as assistant pastor of Christ the Savior Cathedral. Here he was again under the direct guidance of Saint Tikhon, with whom he had already been closely associated in America.

The Passion-bearer Alexander participated in the deliberations of the Church Council of 1917-18. When the Council discussed the drafting of a message to the Orthodox flock concerning elections to the State Council, he stated that, as the fate of Russia was at stake, the Church and the Council in particular should not shy away from the struggle to save the nation. Speaking about the efforts of the Council to upbuild the Church, he outlined his preliminary plans for order and healing in the internal life of the Church and stated with some bitterness, “It seems as if there were builders who were furiously preparing blueprints, plans and so forth for the construction of an edifice and at the same time were calmly observing the destruction brick by brick of this edifice by enemies.”

During the difficult years of the Civil War, the New Martyr Alexander collaborated closely with Saint Tikhon in the administration of the Moscow diocese. In 1918, under the spiritual leadership of the rector, Father Nicholas Arseniev, and the assistant pastor, Father Alexander, a brotherhood affiliated with Christ the Savior Cathedral was established. As its first activity, the brotherhood issued an appeal to the Orthodox flock, which Father Alexander helped write.

This document stated, “People of Russia! Christ the Savior Cathedral, the adornment of Moscow, the pride of Russia, the joy of the Orthodox Church has been condemned to slow destruction. This glorious monument to the great exploits of Russian warriors, who gave their lives for their native land and the Holy Orthodox Faith, has been denied state support…People of Russia! Will you really surrender this wonderful church of the Savior to mockery? Is it really true, as is claimed by the persecutors of the Holy Church, that the people of Russia no longer need holy things—Churches, sacraments, services, because all this is outdated and superstitious? Respond, you faithful! All of you, respond as one! Rise up and protect your holy things! May the generous and well-intentioned donations of the rich be added to the precious pennies of the faithful poor. Moscow, you are the heart of Russia! Preserve your holy shrine—your golden-domed Church of the Savior!…”

In response to this appeal, Orthodox inhabitants of Moscow joined the brotherhood of Christ the Savior Cathedral, and gave their alms to support the majestic church.

Pastoral service at that time was accompanied by much grief and danger. In May 1920 and November 1921 Father Alexander was arrested for brief periods. He was accused of violating the decrees concerning the separation of the Church from the state, and the school from the Church, by holding church school for the children.

In 1922, the Church was subjected to harsh tribulations when, under the pretext of helping the starving, ecclesiastical treasures including sacred vessels, icons, and other holy things were violently confiscated by the state. Heeding the appeal of Her holy primate, the Orthodox Church made generous donations to assist the starving. However, when Saint Tikhon issued a statement to his flock throughout Russia forbidding the cooperation of the clergy in surrendering sacred vessels for non-ecclesiastical use based on canon law, a slanderous campaign against the Church was begun in the press, Her primate was arrested, and a wave of court cases took place throughout Russia, in which servants of the Lord’s altar were accused of counter-revolutionary activity. During these trials many faithful servants of the Church of Christ were sentenced to death and shed their blood as hieromartyrs and martyrs.

During this difficult time for the Church, Father Alexander was unwaveringly guided by the statements of the Holy Patriarch to his flock and also followed his directives. Funds to assist the starving were collected at Christ the Savior Cathedral. At the same time, measures were undertaken to protect the sacred objects of this church. Meetings of the clergy and parishioners of Christ the Savior Cathedral were held at Father Alexander’s apartment in order to draft a resolution of the general parish meeting concerning the state decree.

A draft of the resolution, prepared by Father Alexander, protested against the violent confiscation of church valuables. A general meeting of parishioners was convened on March 23, 1922 at Christ the Savior Cathedral, presided by Archpriest Nicholas Arseniev. Father Alexander had already been arrested. This meeting adopted the final text of the resolution, which demanded guarantees from the state that all donations be used to save the lives of the starving. The participants in the meeting protest the poisonous publications against the Church as well as insults against the hierarchy. The drafting of this document was deemed by the authorities to be criminal counter-revolutionary activity.

After two court cases against the Church, in Petrograd and Moscow, which resulted in the executions of hieromartyrs and martyrs, a new highly visible trial of clergy and laity began in Moscow on November 27, 1922, during which they were accused of supposedly “attempting to retain in their hands possession of church valuables and, through the resulting starvation, to topple the Soviet regime.”

On trial in this case were 105 clergy and laity. Among the main defendants were Archpriest Sergius Uspensky, dean of the second district of forty churches in Prechistenka, Archpriest Nicholas Arseniev, dean of Christ the Savior Cathedral, Archpriest Alexander Hotovitzky, assistant pastor of this Cathedral, Ilya Gromoglasov, priest of Christ the Savior Cathedral, Lev Evgenievich Anohin, warden of this Cathedral, and Archpriest Simeon Golubev, rector of Saint John the Warrior Church.

The most significant part of the indictment submitted to the Court concerned the activity of the clergy and laity of Christ the Savior Cathedral. The indictment stated, “The main organizers and leaders of this criminal activity were Priest Hotovitzky, chairman of the council of parishes in this area, Priest Arseniev, rector of the Cathedral, Priest Zotikov, Priest Gromoglasov, former lawyer Kayutov, former deputy minister Shchepkin, the merchant Golovkin, and engineer Anohin. When the decree of the Supreme Central Executive Committee concerning the confiscation of church valuables was issued, they began their preliminary activities under the leadership of the priest Hotovitzky, who repeated to secretly gather the above named people at his apartment in order to plan with them the measures which they proposed to enact to achieve their criminal intentions.”

The case was in court for two weeks. After the detailed indictment was read, questioning of the defendants began. Father Alexander remained cool and calm during the questioning as he tried to protect the other defendants. He did not admit any guilt, stating, “I consider that it is not counter-revolutionary to ask for a corresponding amount of metal in return for church valuables.”

Following the interrogation of all the defendants and witnesses, at the Court session on December 6, the later infamous, sinister prosecutor Vishinsky delivered the concluding statement for the prosecution. He asked the court for a sentence of capital punishment for thirteen defendants including Archpriests Alexander Hotovitzky, Nicholas Arseniev, Sergius Uspensky, Priest Ilya Gromoglasov, Abbess Vera (Pobedinskaya) of the Novodevichii Women’s Monastery and L.E. Anohin. Vishinsky requested that the other defendants be sentenced to prison terms of varying length.

On December 11, defendants were given an opportunity to say a final word to the court. In his comments, Father Alexander attempted, first of all, to obtain the court’s leniency and mercy for his brother clergy, “I direct your attention to those who were at the meeting in my apartment: some of them are old and the others are very young and guilty of nothing. This was a completely ordinary meeting, it was not counter-revolutionary and it cannot by any means be characterized as a shady plot.”

The lengthiest final comments were delivered by the professor and priest Ilya Gromoglasov. This defendant attempted to gain the favor of the court by expounding on his former opposition to the Holy Synod. Concerning the conclusions of the prosecution, he said that he “knew nothing of the criminal organization headed by Hotovitzky.”

On December 13, the verdict of the revolutionary tribunal was announced. It was milder than the bloodthirsty verdicts delivered at previous trials held in Petrograd and Moscow in conjunction with the confiscation of church valuables. Each of the main defendants—Abbess Vera (Pobedinskaya), Archpriest Sergius Uspensky, and Archpriest Alexander Hotovitzky were sentenced to ten years in prison, the confiscation of their personal property and the deprivation of their civil rights for five years. The others were sentenced to lesser terms of imprisonment. Appeals for pardon, made by those who were sentenced to the longest terms of imprisonment, including that of Archpriest Alexander, were rejected by the presidium of the Supreme Central Executive Committee on February 16, 1923.

After the holy Patriarch Tikhon resumed his administration of the Church and made several statements regarding loyalty to the governmental authorities, many hierarchs, clergy, church leaders and laity, who had previously received sentences from the judiciary in conjunction with the confiscation of church valuables, were granted amnesty. Father Alexander was among those freed in October 1923. Following his liberation, he was not assigned to a parish but served by invitation at various churches in Moscow.

He remained free for only a short time. Already on September 4, 1924, E. Tuchkov, head of the 6th section of the Department of State Political Management, compiled a list of thirteen clergy and church leaders of Moscow and recommended that they be subjected to administrative exile. The New Martyr Alexander, who was included in the list, was characterized as follows in this document, “A priest and preacher with a post-graduate education, very active, zealous and influential among the Tikhonites. His outlook is anti-Soviet.”

On September 9, 1924, the New Martyr Alexander was subjected to an interrogation. “In my religious convictions,” he said at that time, “I consider myself to be a Tikhonite. My relations with the Patriarch are intimate rather than just strictly administrative, but lately, I have avoided meeting with Patriarch Tikhon, as I felt that this might inconvenience him due to my conviction in conjunction with the confiscation of church valuables. I have never expressed an opinion concerning the restoration of the former government and such a thought has not even crossed my mind.”

By a decision of a special meeting of the administration of the Department of State Political Management, the New Martyr Alexander was exiled to the Turuhan region for a period of three years. His already failing health was further weakened by his sojourn in the far north.

Following his return from exile, Father Alexander was raised to the rank of protopresbyter and became one of the closest assistants of the Deputy Locum Tenens of the Patriarchal Throne, Metropolitan (later Patriarch) Sergius, who knew him well since the time of his service in Finland.

In the 1930s, Protopresbyter Alexander served as rector of the Church of the Deposition of the Robe on Donskoy Street. One of the parishioners of this church recalls, “In 1936, Father Alexander did not preach, as he was apparently forbidden to do so. In 1936-7, I was present many times when Father Alexander served. He was a tall, gray-haired priest with gentle facial features, who looked extremely intelligent. Gray, trimmed hair, a small beard, very kind gray eyes, a high-pitched, loud tenor…pronounced exclamations distinctly and with inspiration…His appearance reminded me of many priests who were exiles from the western regions…Father Alexander had many parishioners who greatly revered him…Even today, I remember Father Alexander’s eyes. It seemed as if his glance penetrated your heart and embraced it with affection. I had the same feeling when I saw the holy Patriarch Tikhon…The same light also shining in Father Alexander’s eyes was testimony of his sanctity.”

In the fall of 1937, the New Martyr Alexander was arrested again. The documentary evidence about him at our disposal ends with this; however, a majority of oral reports testify to his death as a martyr. The Orthodox Church in America, on whose territory Protopresbyter Alexander served as a priest until 1914, venerates him as a passion-bearer, whose life as a confessor ended with sufferings for Christ. The place of his burial is unknown.

The Church of Russia also commemorates Saint Alexander on August 7, along with the Archpriests Alexei Vorobiev, Michael Plishevsky, John Voronets, the priests Demetrius Milovidov, and Peter Tokarev, the deacon Elisha Sholder, and Igumen Athanasius Egorov.

A photo gallery of the 1994 Glorification of Saint Alexander may be viewed here.

Greatmartyr Barbara and Martyr Juliana, at Heliopolis in Syria

The Holy Great Martyr Barbara lived and suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian (305-311). Her father, the pagan Dioscorus, was a rich and illustrious man in the Syrian city of Heliopolis. After the death of his wife, he devoted himself to his only daughter.

Seeing Barbara’s extraordinary beauty, Dioscorus decided to hide her from the eyes of strangers. Therefore, he built a tower for Barbara, where only her pagan teachers were allowed to see her. From the tower there was a view of hills stretching into the distance. By day she was able to gaze upon the wooded hills, the swiftly flowing rivers, and the meadows covered with a mottled blanket of flowers; by night the harmonious and majestic vault of the heavens twinkled and provided a spectacle of inexpressible beauty. Soon the virgin began to ask herself questions about the First Cause and Creator of so harmonious and splendid a world.

Gradually, she became convinced that the souless idols were merely the work of human hands. Although her father and teachers offered them worship, she realized that the idols could not have made the surrounding world. The desire to know the true God so consumed her soul that Barbara decided to devote all her life to this goal, and to spend her life in virginity.

The fame of her beauty spread throughout the city, and many sought her hand in marriage. But despite the entreaties of her father, she refused all of them. Barbara warned her father that his persistence might end tragically and separate them forever. Dioscorus decided that the temperament of his daughter had been affected by her life of seclusion. He therefore permitted her to leave the tower and gave her full freedom in her choice of friends and acquaintances. Thus Barbara met young Christian maidens in the city, and they taught her about the Creator of the world, about the Trinity, and about the Divine Logos. Through the Providence of God, a priest arrived in Heliopolis from Alexandria disguised as a merchant. After instructing her in the mysteries of the Christian Faith, he baptized Barbara, then returned to his own country.

During this time a luxurious bathhouse was being built at the house of Dioscorus. By his orders the workers prepared to put two windows on the south side. But Barbara, taking advantage of her father’s absence, asked them to make a third window, thereby forming a Trinity of light. On one of the walls of the bath-house Barbara traced a cross with her finger. The cross was deeply etched into the marble, as if by an iron instrument. Later, her footprints were imprinted on the stone steps of the bathhouse. The water of the bathhouse had great healing power. Saint Simeon Metaphrastes (November 9) compared the bathhouse to the stream of Jordan and the Pool of Siloam, because by God’s power, many miracles took place there.

When Dioscorus returned and expressed dissatisfaction about the change in his building plans, his daughter told him about how she had come to know the Triune God, about the saving power of the Son of God, and about the futility of worshipping idols. Dioscorus went into a rage, grabbed a sword and was on the point of striking her with it. The holy virgin fled from her father, and he rushed after her in pursuit. His way became blocked by a hill, which opened up and concealed the saint in a crevice. On the other side of the crevice was an entrance leading upwards. Saint Barbara managed then to conceal herself in a cave on the opposite slope of the hill.

After a long and fruitless search for his daughter, Dioscorus saw two shepherds on the hill. One of them showed him the cave where the saint had hidden. Dioscorus beat his daughter terribly, and then placed her under guard and tried to wear her down with hunger. Finally he handed her over to the prefect of the city, named Martianus. They beat Saint Barbara fiercely: they struck her with rawhide, and rubbed her wounds with a hair cloth to increase her pain. By night Saint Barbara prayed fervently to her Heavenly Bridegroom, and the Savior Himself appeared and healed her wounds. Then they subjected the saint to new, and even more frightful torments.

In the crowd where the martyr was tortured was the virtuous Christian woman Juliana, an inhabitant of Heliopolis. Her heart was filled with sympathy for the voluntary martyrdom of the beautiful and illustrious maiden. Juliana also wanted to suffer for Christ. She began to denounce the torturers in a loud voice, and they seized her.

Both martyrs were tortured for a long time. Their bodies were raked and wounded with hooks, and then they were led naked through the city amidst derision and jeers. Through the prayers of Saint Barbara the Lord sent an angel who covered the nakedness of the holy martyrs with a splendid robe. Then the steadfast confessors of Christ, Saints Barbara and Juliana, were beheaded. Dioscorus himself executed Saint Barbara. The wrath of God was not slow to punish both torturers, Martianus and Dioscorus. They were killed after being struck by lightning.

In the sixth century the relics of the holy Great Martyr Barbara were transferred to Constantinople. Six hundred years later, they were transferred to Kiev (July 11) by Barbara, the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenos, wife of the Russian prince Michael Izyaslavich. They rest even now at Kiev’s Saint Vladimir cathedral, where an Akathist to the saint is served each Tuesday.

Many pious Orthodox Christians are in the habit of chanting the Troparion of Saint Barbara each day, recalling the Savior’s promise to her that those who remembered her and her sufferings would be preserved from a sudden, unexpected death, and would not depart this life without benefit of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.

Martyr John of Damascus

Saint John of Damascus was born about the year 680 at Damascus, Syria into a Christian family. His father, Sergius Mansur, was a treasurer at the court of the Caliph. John had also a foster brother, the orphaned child Cosmas (October 14), whom Sergius had taken into his own home. When the children were growing up, Sergius saw that they received a good education. At the Damascus slave market he ransomed the learned monk Cosmas of Calabria from captivity and entrusted to him the teaching of his children. The boys displayed uncommon ability and readily mastered their courses of the secular and spiritual sciences. After the death of his father, John occupied ministerial posts at court and became the city prefect.

In Constantinople at that time, the heresy of Iconoclasm had arisen and quickly spread, supported by the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741). Rising up in defense of the Orthodox veneration of icons [Iconodoulia], Saint John wrote three treatises entitled, “Against Those who Revile the Holy Icons.” The wise and God-inspired writings of Saint John enraged the emperor. But since the author was not a Byzantine subject, the emperor was unable to lock him up in prison, or to execute him. The emperor then resorted to slander. A forged letter to the emperor was produced, supposedly from John, in which the Damascus official was supposed to have offered his help to Leo in conquering the Syrian capital.

This letter and another hypocritically flattering note were sent to the Saracen Caliph by Leo the Isaurian. The Caliph immediately ordered that Saint John be removed from his post, that his right hand be cut off, and that he be led through the city in chains.

That same evening, they returned the severed hand to Saint John. The saint pressed it to his wrist and prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos to heal him so that he could defend the Orthodox Faith and write once again in praise of the Most Pure Virgin and Her Son. After a time, he fell asleep before the icon of the Mother of God. He heard Her voice telling him that he had been healed, and commanding him to toil unceasingly with his restored hand. Upon awakening, he found that his hand had been attached to his arm once more. Only a small red mark around his wrist remained as a sign of the miracle.

Later, in thanksgiving for being healed, Saint John had a silver model of his hand attached to the icon, which became known as “Of the Three Hands.” Some unlearned painters have given the Mother of God three hands instead of depicting the silver model of Saint John’s hand. The Icon “Of the Three Hands” is commemorated on June 28 and July 12.

When he learned of the miracle, which demonstrated John’s innocence, the Caliph asked his forgiveness and wanted to restore him to his former office, but the saint refused. He gave away his riches to the poor, and went to Jerusalem with his stepbrother and fellow-student, Cosmas. There he entered the monastery of Saint Savva the Sanctified as a simple novice.

It was not easy for him to find a spiritual guide, because all the monks were daunted by his great learning and by his former rank. Only one very experienced Elder, who had the skill to foster the spirit of obedience and humility in a student, would consent to do this. The Elder forbade John to do anything at all according to his own will. He also instructed him to offer to God all his labors and supplications as a perfect sacrifice, and to shed tears which would wash away the sins of his former life.

Once, he sent the novice to Damascus to sell baskets made at the monastery, and commanded him to sell them at a certain inflated price, far above their actual value. He undertook the long journey under the searing sun, dressed in rags. No one in the city recognized the former official of Damascus, for his appearance had been changed by prolonged fasting and ascetic labors. However, Saint John was recognized by his former house steward, who bought all the baskets at the asking price, showing compassion on him for his apparent poverty.

One of the monks happened to die, and his brother begged Saint John to compose something consoling for the burial service. Saint John refused for a long time, but out of pity he yielded to the petition of the grief-stricken monk, and wrote his renowned funeral troparia (“What earthly delight,” “All human vanity,” and others). For this disobedience the Elder banished him from his cell. John fell at his feet and asked to be forgiven, but the Elder remained unyielding. All the monks began to plead for him to allow John to return, but he refused. Then one of the monks asked the Elder to impose a penance on John, and to forgive him if he fulfilled it. The Elder said, “If John wishes to be forgiven, let him wash out all the chamber pots in the lavra, and clean the monastery latrines with his bare hands.”

John rejoiced and eagerly ran to accomplish his shameful task. After a certain while, the Elder was commanded in a vision by the All-Pure and Most Holy Theotokos to allow Saint John to write again. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem heard of Saint John, he ordained him priest and made him a preacher at his cathedral. But Saint John soon returned to the Lavra of Saint Savva, where he spent the rest of his life writing spiritual books and church hymns. He left the monastery only to denounce the iconoclasts at the Constantinople Council of 754. They subjected him to imprisonment and torture, but he endured everything, and through the mercy of God he remained alive. He died in about the year 780, more than 100 years old.

Saint John of Damascus was a theologian and a zealous defender of Orthodoxy. His most important book is the Fount of Knowledge. The third section of this work, “On the Orthodox Faith,” is a summary of Orthodox doctrine and a refutation of heresy. Since he was known as a hymnographer, we pray to Saint John for help in the study of church singing.

Saint John, Bishop of Polybotum

Saint John, Bishop of Polybotum (in Phrygia), was known as a denouncer of the heresy and impiety of Emperor Leo the Isaurian. Saint John opposed Leo for his iconoclasm, and taught his flock the Orthodox doctrine of the veneration of icons.

The saint died at the beginning of the eighth century. The Lord granted him the gift of healing the infirm and casting out evil spirits.

Saint Gennadius, Archbishop of Novgorod

Saint Gennadius, Archbishop of Novgorod, was descended from the Gonzov family and was, in the testimony of contemporaries, “dignified, intelligent, virtuous and learned in the Holy Scripture.” He was made a monk at the Valaam monastery, under the spiritual guidance of Saint Sabbatius of Solovki (September 27). From the year 1472, he was Archimandrite of the Chudov (Miracle of the Archangel Michael) monastery in Moscow. Zealous for celebrating divine services according to the Typikon, he and Bassian, Archbishop of Rostov, and later his successor Joasaph, fearlessly rose up in defense of the ancient Rule during a dispute at the consecration of the Dormition cathedral in Moscow during the years 1479-1481.

In 1483 Saint Gennadius began construction of a stone church at the Chudov monastery in honor of Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow (February 12), the founder of the monastery. On December 12, 1484 Saint Gennadius was consecrated as Archbishop of Novgorod. Already in Novgorod, but still honoring the memory of Saint Alexis, Gennadius did not cease to concern himself with the construction of the church, even contributing silver for the completion of this temple.

The time of holy Archbishop Gennadius as hierarch at Novgorod coincided with a terrible period in the history of the Russian Church. In 1470, Judaizing preachers, who traveled to Novgorod in the guise of merchants, had already begun to plant the weeds of heresy and apostasy among the Orthodox.

The first reports about the heresy reached Saint Gennadius in the year 1487. Four members of a secret society, in a state of intoxication, opened up and told the Orthodox of the existence of the impious heresy. As soon as it became known to him, the zealous archpastor immediately began an inquiry and with deep sorrow became convinced that the danger was a threat not only to local Novgorod piety, but also in Moscow, the very capital of Orthodoxy, where the leaders of the Judaizers had journeyed in 1480.

In September 1487 he sent to Metropolitan Gerontius at Moscow all the material from the inquiry, together with a list of the apostates he had discovered, as well as their writings. The struggle with the Judaizers became the main focus of Saint Gennadius’ archpastoral activity. In the words of Saint Joseph of Volokolamsk (September 9), “this archbishop, angered by the malevolent heretics, pounced upon them like a lion from out of the thicket of the Holy Scriptures and the splendid heights of the prophets and the apostolic teachings.”

For twelve years Saint Gennadius and Saint Joseph struggled against the most powerful attempts of the opponents of Orthodoxy to alter the course of history of the Russian Church and the Russian state. By their efforts the Orthodox were victorious. The works of Gennadius in the study of the Bible contributed to this victory. The heretics in their impious cleverness used texts from the Old Testament, but which were different from the texts accepted by the Orthodox. Archbishop Gennadius undertook an enormous task: bringing the correct listings of Holy Scripture together in a single codex. Up until this time Biblical books had been copied in Russia, following the example of Byzantium, not in their entirety, but in separate parts—the Pentateuch (first five books) or Octateuch (first eight books), Kings, Proverbs, the Psalter, the Prophets, the Gospels, the Epistles, and other instructive books.

The holy books of the Old Testament in particular often were subjected to both accidental and intentional errors. Saint Gennadius wrote about this with sorrow in a letter to Archbishop Joasaph: “The Judaizing heretical tradition adheres to the Psalms of David, or prophecies which they have altered.” Gathering around himself learned and industrious Biblical scholars, the saint collected all the books of the Holy Scripture into a single codex, and he gave his blessing for the Holy Books which were not found in manuscripts of the traditional Slavonic Bible to be retranslated from the Latin language. In 1499 the first complete codex of Holy Scripture in Slavonic (“the Gennadius Bible,” as they called it after its compiler) was published in Russia. This work became an integral link in the succession of Slavonic translations of the Word of God. From the God-inspired translation of the Holy Scripture by Saints Cyril and Methodius, through the Bible of Saint Gennadius (1499), reproduced in the first printed Bible (Ostrozh, 1581), the Church has maintained a Slavonic Biblical tradition right through the so-called Elizabethan Bible (1751) and all successive printed editions.

Together with the preparation of the Bible, the circle of church scholars under Archbishop Gennadius also undertook a great literary task: the compilation of the “Fourth Novgorod Chronicle.” Numerous hand-written books were translated, corrected and transcribed, bringing the Chronicle up to the year 1496.

Dositheus, the igumen of the Solovki monastery who was at Novgorod on monastery matters, worked for several years with Saint Gennadius compiling a library for the Solovki monastery. It was at the request of Saint Gennadius that Dositheus wrote the Lives of Saints Zosimas (April 17) and Sabbatius (September 27).

The majority of the books transcribed with the blessing of the Novgorod hierarch (more than 20), were preserved in the collection of Solovki manuscripts. Ever a zealous advocate for spiritual enlightenment, Saint Gennadius founded a school for the preparation of worthy clergy at Novgorod.

The memory of Saint Gennadius is preserved also in his work for the welfare of the Orthodox Church.

At the end of the fifteenth century many Russians were concerned about the impending end of the world, which they believed would take place at the end of the seventh millenium from the creation of the world (in 1492 A.D.). Therefore, in 1408, it was decided not to compute the Paschal dates beyond the year 1491. In September 1491, however, the Archbishops’ Council of the Russian Church at Moscow, with the participation of Saint Gennadius, decreed that the Paschalion for the eighth millenium be calculated.

Metropolitan Zosimas at Moscow on November 27, 1492 “set forth a cathedral Paschalion for twenty years,” and asked Bishop Philotheus of Perm and Archbishop Gennadius of Novgorod each to compile their own Paschalion for conciliar review and confirmation on December 21, 1492. Saint Gennadius finished calculating his Paschalion, which in contrast to that of the Metropolitan, extended for seventy years. It was distributed to the dioceses, with the approval of the Council, as the accepted Paschalion for the next twenty years. Included with the Paschalion was Saint Gennadius’s own commentary upon it in an encyclical entitled, “Source for the Paschalion Transposed to the Eight Thousandth Year.”

In his theological explanation of the Paschalion, based upon the Word of God and the holy Fathers, the saint wrote: “It is proper not to fear the end of the world, but rather to await the coming of Christ at every moment. For just as God might deign to end the world, so also might He deign to prolong the course of time.”

No one knows when the world created by God will end, “not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father “(Mt. 24:36). Therefore, the holy Fathers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, explained the cycle of years from the creation of the world precisely as a cycle. “This occurs in a circular motion, not having an end.” The saint contrasts the heretical methods of calculating the times with the way hallowed by the Church, a constant spiritual sobriety. Saint Gennadius expounded on the theological fundamentals of the Paschalion. He explained that on the basis of the cycle of years from the world’s creation, it is possible to determine a Paschalion for the future, as may be required. The Paschalion of Saint Gennadius, by his own testimony, was not something new that he created, but rather was based on a former tradition; in part, on the basis of the Paschalion for 1360-1492 under Saint Basil Kalika, Archbishop of Novgorod (July 3).

In 1539, under Archbishop Macarius of Novgorod, a Paschalion was compiled for the eighth millenium, based on the principles of the Paschalion of Saint Gennadius.

A prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos, which he composed in 1497, also demonstrates his deep spiritual life and prayerful inspiration. In addition to his letters to Metropolitans Zosimas and Simon, to Archbishop Joasaph, to Bishops Niphon and Prochorus, and a letter to the 1490 Council, Archbishop Gennadius also wrote a church “Small Rule” and the “Tradition for Monks,” who live according to the monastic Rule of skete life.

Leaving his archpastoral service in 1504, the saint lived in retirement at the Chudov monastery, where he peacefully fell asleep in the Lord on December 4, 1505. In the Stepen-Ranks book we read: “Archbishop Gennadius served as archbishop for nineteen years, beautifying the churches, improving the behavior of the clergy, and proclaiming the Orthodox Faith among the heretics. Then he lived at Moscow for a year and a half at the Chudov monastery, dedicated to the Miracle of the Archangel Michael and to Saint Alexis the Metropolitan and wonderworker, where he had been Archimandrite, and then he fell asleep in the Lord.”

The holy relics of Saint Gennadius were put into the church of the Miracle of the Archangel Michael at Chonae (September 6), in that place particularly venerated by him, where the relics of Saint Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow rested. Saint Gennadius is also commemorated on the third Sunday after Pentecost, when the Church remembers all the Saints who shone forth at Novgorod.

Monastic Martyr, Hieromonk Seraphim, Bishop of the Phanar

The Hieromonk Seraphim, Bishop of the Phanar was from the village of Bezoula, Agrapha diocese in Greece. He lived in asceticism at first as a monk at the Monastery of the Most Holy Theotokos at Koronis, and later was chosen as bishop of the Phanar and Neochorion. For his refusal to accept Islam, he was beaten and impaled by the Turks in 1601. His head is at the monastery at Koronis and has been glorified by numerous miracles.

Icon of the Mother of God of Damascus

The Damascene Icon of the Mother of God, by ancient tradition, was painted by Saint John of Damascus in gratitude to the Theotokos for the miraculous healing of his right hand, cut off through the perfidy of Emperor Leo the Isaurian. This icon is also known as “Of the Three Hands” Icon of the Mother of God (June 28, and July 12).

In the ninth century in the time of the Iconoclasts, Saint John of Damascus (December 4) was zealous in his veneration of holy icons. Because of this, he was slandered by the emperor and iconoclast Leo III the Isaurian (717-740), who informed the Damascus caliph that Saint John was committing treasonous acts against him. The caliph gave orders to cut off the hand of the monk and take it to the marketplace. Towards evening Saint John, having asked the caliph for the cut-off hand, put it to its joint and fell to the ground before the icon of the Mother of God. The monk begged Our Lady to heal the hand, which had written in defense of Orthodoxy. After long prayer he fell asleep and saw in a dream that the All-Pure Mother of God had turned to him promising him quick healing.

Before this the Mother of God bid him toil without fail with this hand. Having awakened from sleep, Saint John saw that his hand was unharmed. In thankfulness for this healing Saint John placed on the icon a hand fashioned of silver, from which the icon received its name “Of Three Hands.” (Some iconographers, in their ignorance, have mistakenly depicted the Most Holy Theotokos with three arms and three hands.) According to Tradition, Saint John wrote a hymn of thanksgiving to the Mother of God: “All of creation rejoices in You, O Full of Grace,” which appears in place of the hymn “It is Truly Meet” in the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great.

Saint John Damascene received monasticism at the monastery of Saint Savva the Sanctified and there bestowed his wonderworking icon. The Lavra presented the icon “Of Three Hands” in blessing to Saint Savva, Archbishop of Serbia (+ 1237, January 12). During an invasion of Serbia by the Turks, some Christians who wanted to protect the icon, entrusted it to the safekeeping of the Mother of God Herself. They placed it upon a donkey, which without a driver proceeded to Athos and stopped in front of the Hilandar monastery. The monks put the icon in the monastery’s cathedral church (katholikon). During a time of discord over the choice of igumen, the Mother of God deigned to head the monastery Herself, and from that time Her holy icon has occupied the igumen’s place in the temple. At the Hilandar monastery there is chosen only a vicar, and from the holy icon the monks take a blessing for every obedience.

Daily Readings for Saturday, December 03, 2022

SATURDAY OF THE 11TH WEEK

ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, DAIRY, EGGS

The Holy Prophet Sophonias (Zephaniah), Our Righteous Father John, Bishop and Hesychast, Holy Martyrs Agapius and Seleucius, Theodore, Archbishop of Alexandria, Angelis the New Martyr, Karpos the Hieromartyr

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 1:3-10

Brethren, grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel – not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel of heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.

LUKE 12:32-40

The Lord said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Prophet Zephaniah

The Prophet Zephaniah (Sophonias) was a contemporary of the Prophet Jeremiah and the Prophetess Oldama. He was from the tribe of Simeon, and was the ninth of the Twelve Minor Prophets of the Old Testament. The prophet lived at the royal court, where he preached repentance and helped King Josiah eliminate idol-worship.

He prophesied about the calamities that were to come for the people of Judea and the surrounding regions: Gaza, Ascalon, Crete, and against the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Ninevites.

Venerable Savva, Abbot of Zvenigorod, Disciple of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh

Saint Savva of Zvenigorod forsook the world in his early youth, and received the monastic tonsure from Saint Sergius of Radonezh (September 25 and July 5), and was his disciple and fellow-ascetic.

Saint Savva loved solitude, and avoided conversing with people. He lived in constant toil, lamenting the poverty of his soul, and trembling before the judgment of God. He was a model of simplicity and humility, and he attained such a depth of spiritual wisdom that “in the monastery of Saint Sergius he was the Father Confessor to all the brethren, a venerable and exceedingly learned Elder.”

When Great Prince Demetrios of the Don built the monastery of the Dormition of the Mother of God at the Dubenka River, in gratitude for the victory over Mamai, Savva became the Igoumen, with the blessing of Saint Sergius. Maintaining the simple manner of his life of asceticism, he ate plants, wore coarse clothing and slept on the ground.

After the departure of their Igoumen Saint Nikon (November 17) into the wilderness in 1392, the brethren of the Trinity-Saint Sergius Lavra asked Saint Savva to become the Igoumen of the monastery. Here he “shepherded the flock entrusted to him well, to the best of his ability, helped by the prayers of his Spiritual Father, Saint Sergius.” According to Tradition, the well outside the Lavra walls was built while he was Igoumen.

Prince Yuri of Zvenigorod, a godson of Saint Sergius, regarded Saint Savva with much love and esteem. He chose Saint Savva as his Spiritual Father and begged him to come and bestow his blessing upon his entire household. The Saint had hoped to return to his monastery, but the Prince begged him to stay and establish a new monastery, “in his fatherland, near Zvenigorod, at a place called Storozhi.”

Saint Savva acceded to the request of Prince Yuri, and praying tearfully before an icon of the Mother of God, he entreated her protection for that site in the wilderness. On Storozhi Hill, he built a small wooden church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, and nearby a small cell for himself. Here he established a monastery in 1399, with paternal love he accepted all who came seeking a life of quietude and seclusion.

Saint Savva worked very hard to build up the monastery. He dug a well at the foot of the hill, from which he carried water on his own shoulders. He encircled the monastery with a wooden palisade, and in a hollow above it, he dug out a cell where he could live in solitude.

In 1399 Saint Savva blessed his spiritual son, Prince Yuri, to go on a military campaign, predicting that the enemy would be defeated. Through the prayers of the holy Elder, the forces of the Prince won a speedy victory. Through the efforts of Saint Savva, a stone church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos was built to replace the old wooden one.

Saint Savva went to the Lord at an advanced age on December 3, 1406. He appointed his disciple, who was also named Savva, as his successor.

Veneration of the holy God-pleaser by the local people began immediately after his death. The miraculous curative power issuing from the Saint's grave, and his numerous appearances, convinced everyone that Igoumen Savva was "truly an unsetting sun of divine light, illumining all with its miraculous rays.” In a letter of 1539 Saint Savva was called a wonderworker. Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich had a special veneration for him, repeatedly visiting the monastery of Saint Savva on foot. Tradition has preserved for us a remarkable account of how Saint Savva was saved from a ferocious bear.

The Life of Saint Savva, compiled in the XVI century, relates how at the end of the XV century (1480-1490), the Saint appeared to Father Dionysios, the fourth Igoumen of Saint Savva Monastery and said: “Dionysios! Wake up and paint my icon.” When Father Dionysios asked who he was, he replied, “I am Savva, the founder of this place.”

Now Father Dionysios had not known the Saint personally, so he summoned Elder Habakkuk, who had known Saint Savva in his youth, hoping to convince himself that his dream was not a delusion. He described the Saint's outward appearance, and Father Habakkuk assured him that the Saint looked exactly as the Igoumen had seen him in the dream. Then Father Dionysios obeyed the command and painted an icon of Saint Savva.

The Feast Day of Saint Savva was established at the Moscow Council of 1547. His incorrupt relics were recovered on January 19, 1652.

Saint Theodoulus, Eparch of Constantinople

Saint Theodoulus was an eparch during the reign of Theodosius the Great. He resigned his position because he did not want to be distracted by vain worldly cares.

After his wife’s death, Saint Theodoulus gave his wealth away to the poor and became a monk. He traveled to Edessa and lived on top of a pillar for thirty years, eating only once a week.

Saint Theodoulus the Stylite departed to the Lord around 440.

Venerable John the Silent of Saint Sabbas Monastery

Saint John the Silent was born around 454 in the city of Nicopolis, Armenia into the family of a military commander named Enkratius and his wife Euphemia. The boy began to study Holy Scripture, and he loved solitude and prayer with all his heart.

With the inheritance his parents left him, John built a church dedicated to the Most Holy Theotokos. At eighteen years of age, John became a monk, living an ascetic life of fasting, prayer, and temperance with ten other monks at the church he had founded.

At the request of the citizens of Colonia, the Metropolitan of Sebaste consecrated the twenty-eight-year-old John as Bishop of Colonia. Having assumed the episcopal throne, the saint did not alter his strict ascetic manner of life. Under the influence of the saint his relatives, his brother Pergamios (an associate of the emperors Zeno and Anastasius) and his nephew Theodore (an associate of the emperor Justinian), also lived in a Christian manner.

In John’s tenth year as bishop, the governorship of Armenia was assumed by Pazinikos, the husband of the saint’s sister, Maria. The new governor began to interfere in spiritual and ecclesiastical matters, and there was unrest in the Church. Saint John then went to Constantinople, and through Archbishop Euthymius, he entreated the emperor Zeno to defend the Armenian Church from the evil Governor.

Overwhelmed by worldly quarrels, John secretly left his diocese and sailed to Jerusalem. With tears he besought God to show him a place where he might live and find salvation. A bright star appeared, which led Saint John to the Lavra of Saint Savva.

John, concealing his episcopal rank, was accepted in the community as a simple novice. Under the guidance of the igumen Saint Savva(December 5), Bishop John toiled obediently for more than four years at every task he was assigned. When a guesthouse was built at the Lavra, Saint John served the workers, serving their food and assisting in the construction of the building. When a cenobitic monastery for novices was being built, John was once again assigned to help the workers.

Seeing Saint John’s humility and love of labor, Saint Savva deemed him worthy of ordination to presbyter. Saint John was forced to reveal his rank to Patriarch Elias of Jerusalem (494-517), who told Saint Savva that John could not be ordained. Moreover, he said that John was to live in silence, and that no one should trouble him. Soon the Lord also revealed Saint John’s secret to Saint Savva. Saint John spent four years in his cell, receiving no one and not going out even for church.

Desiring ever greater solitude and increased abstinence, Saint John quit the Lavra and withdrew into the desert, where he spent more than nine years, eating plants and grass. He survived a devastating incursion of the Saracens and did not perish, only because the Lord sent him a defender: a ferocious lion. When the enemy tried to harm the saint, the lion attacked them and they scattered in fright. Tradition speaks of many miracles Saint John performed during this time in the desert.

When Saint Savva returned after an extended stay in Scythopolis, he persuaded Saint John to forsake the wilderness and to live at the monastery. After this, the Lord, in a miraculous way, revealed to everyone at the Lavra that the monk John was actually a bishop.

When Saint John reached age seventy, his holy and God-bearing spiritual Father Saint Savva died. The saint grieved deeply over this, since he was not present at the time. Saint Savva appeared to him in a vision, and having consoled him, he foretold that there would be much toil ahead in the struggle against heresy. Saint John even had to leave his solitude to strengthen the brethren in the struggle with the Origenists.

Saint John the Silent spent sixty-six years at the Lavra of Saint Savva the Sanctified. Through his constant ascetic efforts, by his untiring prayer and humble wisdom, Saint John acquired the grace of the Holy Spirit. At his prayers, many miracles took place, and he was able to discern the secret thoughts of people. He healed the sick and those possessed by demons. Even during his lifetime he saved those who invoked his name from certain destruction. Once, he scattered fig seeds on barren rock, and a beautiful and fruitful tree sprang up. In time, the tree grew so much that it overshadowed the saint’s cell.

Saint John the Silent departed to the Lord in peace at the age of 104.

Hieromartyr Theodore, Archbishop of Alexandria

The Hieromartyr Theodore, Bishop of Alexandria, was born in Egypt in the city of Alexandria. This city was famous for its many martyrs and confessors: from the holy Evangelist Mark, Protomartyr of Alexandria (April 25), to Saint Athanasius the Great (January 18 and May 2), a pillar and confessor of Orthodoxy.

Regrettably, historical records do not give us precise details of Saint Theodore’s life and deeds, but the Church of Christ has preserved the name of the hieromartyr in its diptychs for all time.

A fiery preacher, powerful of word and church activity, Bishop Theodore evoked an angry hatred in the boisterous pagans of Alexandria, who did not like his preaching. During one of his sermons they surrounded and seized the saint. They beat him and jeered at him, but he did not offer resistance. They placed a crown of thorns on his head, and led him through the city.

Then they led him to the seacoast and threw him from a cliff into the sea, but the wind and the waves carried him back to dry land. The astonished pagans brought Saint Theodore to the prefect of the city, who commanded that he be subjected to harsh tortures. Not a word did the torturers hear from the tortured confessor, except his prayer to the Lord. Then the holy martyr was handed over to Roman soldiers and executed in the manner of the Apostle Paul, he was beheaded with a sword.

Monastic Martyr Cosmas of Saint Anne Skete, Mount Athos

Saint Cosmas was a monk of Saint Anne’s Skete on Mount Athos. He was executed in Constantinople on December 3, 1760 when he refused to convert to Islam. The specific details of his martyrdom are not known.

Saint George of Cernica and Caldarushani

Saint George was born in 1730, and became a monk on Mount Athos when he was a young man. He was a disciple of Saint Paisius Velichkovsky (November 15) who was then the igumen of Vatopedi Monastery.

Since the skete at Cernica had been deserted for almost thirty years, Metropolitan Gregory II of Wallachia asked Elder George to revive monastic life there according to the Athonite Typikon.

Saint George’s efforts at Cernica were so successful that Metropolitan Philaret II also entrusted him with leading the Caldarushani Monastery, which he guided until his death. Life at both monasteries followed the Athonite-Paisian hesychastic tradition.

Saint George was glorified by the Romanian Orthodox Church in 2005. His holy relics are in the Cernica Monastery, where they are venerated by the faithful.

New Martyr Angelos of Chios

No information available at this time.

Daily Readings for Friday, December 02, 2022

FRIDAY OF THE 11TH WEEK

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

Habakkuk the Prophet, Our Righteous Father Cyril of Phileus, Myrope the Martyr of Chios, Porphyrios of Kavsokalyvia, Joannicos the Monk of Devich, Theophilos the Hermit

ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS 3:6-18

Brethren, we command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, we did not eat any one's bread without paying, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not burden any of you. It was not because we have not that right, but to give you in our conduct an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness and to earn their own living. Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing.
If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with you all. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

LUKE 20:19-26

At that time, the scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Jesus at that very hour, but they feared the people; for they perceived that he had told this parable against them. So they watched him, and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might take hold of what he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. They asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a coin. Whose likeness and inscription has it?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him by what he said; but marveling at his answer they were silent.

Saint Alexis (Kabaliuk)

No information available at this time.

Prophet Habakkuk

The Holy Prophet Habakkuk, the eighth of the Twelve Minor Prophets, was descended from the Tribe of Simeon, and he prophesied around 650 B.C.

The Prophet Habakkuk foresaw the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the Babylonian Captivity and the later return of the captives to their native land. During the war with the Babylonians the prophet withdrew to Arabia, where the following miracle occurred. When he was bringing dinner to the reapers, he met an angel of the Lord, and instantly by the strength of his spirit he was transported to Babylon, where at the time the Prophet Daniel was languishing in prison. The food intended for the reapers assuaged the hunger of the exhausted Prophet Daniel (Dan. 14:33-37).

After the end of the war with the Babylonians, the Prophet Habakkuk returned to his homeland and died at a great old age. His relics were found at the time of Emperor Theodosius the Younger (408-450), together with the relics of the Prophet Micah (August 14).

The Fourth Ode of the Psalter (“O Lord, I have heard thy report, and was afraid…”) is based on Habakkuk 3:2-19.

Venerable Athanasius “the Resurrected One”, Recluse of the Kiev Near Caves

Saint Athanasius, hermit of the Near Caves of Kiev, was a contemporary of the archimandrite Saint Polycarp (July 24) of the Kiev Caves. Saint Athanasius was grievously ill for a long time. When he died, the brethren prepared him for burial, and on the third day the igumen came to bury him. However, they all saw the dead man alive. He was sitting up and weeping. To all their questions he replied only: “Seek salvation, obey the igumen in everything, repent each hour and pray to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His All-Pure Mother and to Saints Anthony and Theodosius, to allow you to end your life here. Do not ask me anything else, for I must pray” (There is a similar story of Saint Hesychius [October 3] in THE LADDER of Saint John Climacus, Step 6).

After this he lived for twelve years more in solitude in a cave. During that time he spoke not a word to anyone. He wept day and night, and partook of a little bread and water only every other day. Just before his death, he assembled the brethren, and repeated his earlier words to them, and then he peacefully departed unto the Lord (in about the year 1176).

The monk Babylas, who had suffered illness and an infirmity of the legs for many years, was healed at his relics. “As I lay there,” he told the brethren, “I cried out in pain. Suddenly, Saint Athanasius appeared to me and said, ‘Come to me, and I shall heal you.’ I wanted to ask him how and when he had returned here, but he became invisible. I believed his words and asked to be taken to his relics. And indeed, I have been healed.” Saint Athanasius was buried in the Antoniev Cave. His memory is celebrated also on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.

Venerable Athanasius the Recluse of the Kiev Caves

Saint Athanasius, Recluse of the Far Caves of Kiev is mentioned in the Fourth Ode of the general Canon of the Monastic Fathers of the Far Caves. The “Sayings and Lives of the Saints Who Repose in the Cave of Saint Theodosius” says that Saint Athanasius had no need of candles in the cave, since a heavenly light shone for him. He grants healing to all who approach him with faith.

The memory of Saint Athanasius is celebrated also on August 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.

Martyr Myrope of Chios

The Holy Martyr Myrope was born in the city of Ephesus at the beginning of the third century. She lost her father at an early age, and her mother raised her in the Christian Faith. Saint Myrope frequently visited the grave of the Martyr Hermione (September 4), daughter of the holy Apostle Philip, took myrrh from her relics, and healed the sick with it.

During the persecution by Decius (249-251), Myrope went with her mother to the island of Chios, where they spent their time in fasting and prayer. Once, by order of the cruel governor of the island, the soldier Isidore (May 14), a man of deep faith and great piety, was martyred. Saint Myrope secretly removed the body of the martyr and buried it. The soldiers, who had been ordered not to allow the Christians to take Isidore’s body, were sentenced to death.

Saint Myrope took pity on the condemned, and she told the soldiers and then the governor what she had done. At the trial she confessed herself a Christian. For this they gave her a fierce beating and then threw her in prison. At midnight, while she was praying, a light shone in the prison. Saint Isidore appeared surrounded by angels, and Saint Myrope surrendered her soul to God. The prison was immediately filled with a sweet fragrance. The pagan guard, trembling at the vision, told this to a priest. Later, he accepted Baptism and a martyric death for his confession of Christ.

Saints John, Heraclemon, Andrew, and Theophilus, of Egypt

Saints John, Heraclemon, Andrew, and Theophilus lived in Egypt in the fourth century, and are mentioned in the life of Saint Onuphrius.

After he had buried Saint Onuphrius, Saint Paphnutius came upon an oasis which impressed him with its beauty and abundance of fruit-bearing trees. Four youths inhabiting this place came to him from out of the wilderness. The youths told Abba Paphnutius that in their childhood they had lived in the city of Oxyrhynchus (Upper Thebaid) and they had studied together. They had burned with the desire to devote their lives to God. Making their plans to go off into the desert, the young men left the city and after several days’ journey, they reached this place. A man radiant with heavenly glory had met them and led them to a desert Elder. “We have lived here six years already,” said the youths. “Our Elder dwelt here one year and then he died. Now we live here alone, we eat the fruit of the trees, and we have water from a spring.” The youths gave him their names, they were Saints John, Andrew, Heraclemon and Theophilus (Dec. 2).

The youths struggled separately the whole week long, but on Saturday and Sunday they gathered at the oasis and offered up common prayer. On these days an angel would appear and commune them with the Holy Mysteries. This time however, for Abba Paphnutius’ sake, they did not go off into the desert, but spent the whole week together at prayer. On the following Saturday and Sunday Saint Paphnutius together with the youths was granted to receive the Holy Mysteries from the hands of the angel and to hear these words, “Receive the Imperishable Food, unending bliss and life eternal, the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, our God.”

Saint Paphnutius made bold to ask the angel for permission to remain in the desert to the end of his days. The angel replied that God had decreed another path for him. He was to return to Egypt and tell the Christians of the life of the desert-dwellers.

Having bid farewell to the youths, Saint Paphnutius reached the edge of the wilderness after a three day journey. Here he found a small skete, and the brethren received him with love. Abba Paphnutius related everything that he had learned about the holy Fathers whom he had encountered in the desert. The brethren wrote a detailed account of what Saint Paphnutius said, and deposited it in the church, where all who wished to do so could read it. Saint Paphnutius gave thanks to God, Who had granted him to learn about the exalted lives of the hermits of the Thebaid, and he returned to his own monastery.

Saints John, Heraclemon, Andrew, and Theophilus are also commemorated on June 12 with Saint Onuphrius.

Saint Jesse, Bishop of Tsilkani, Georgia

Saint Jesse of Tsilkani arrived in Georgia in the 6th century with the other Syrian fathers and companions of Saint John of Zedazeni.

At the recommendation of Saint John of Zedazeni, Catholicos Evlavios of Kartli consecrated Saint Jesse as bishop of Tsilkani. The holy father traveled throughout his diocese preaching the Holy Gospel. Passing from city to city, from valley to mountain and back, the kind shepherd worked wonders, healed the infirm, cleansed lepers, cast out demons and raised those who were confined to their beds.

Once, with the blessing of his teacher Saint John of Zedazeni, Saint Jesse performed a miracle to strengthen the people in their Faith. He descended to the bank of the Ksani River, followed by Saint John and a multitude of people. He made the sign of the Cross over the river, touched his staff to the water and commanded: “In the name of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, I command you, river: follow me!” Immediately the river reversed its current and began to flow backwards, following in Saint Jesse’s footsteps right up to Tsilkani Church.

Those living near Mtskheta and Tsilkani who witnessed this miracle glorified the Lord Jesus Christ for bestowing upon one of His children the gift of wonderworking.

When the Lord made known to the saint the day of his repose, he gathered his disciples and church servitors, bade them farewell, blessed them, partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, and reposed in peace. His last words were “Lord, into Thy hands I commit my spirit!”

Saint Jesse of Tsilkani is buried in the Tsilkani Church of the Most Holy Theotokos.

Saint Stephen Urosh, King of Serbia

Saint Stephen Urosh, King of Serbia, was son of King Dushan Nemany, and was born in the year 1337. In 1346 he was crowned king. Dushan sought the daughter of the French king for his son, but the Roman Pope insisted that the princess not change from the Latin confession. Dushan did not want to see a Catholic in his family, and because of this Saint Stephen Urosh entered into marriage with the daughter of Vlad, Prince of Walachia.

Upon the death of his father (+ 1355), Saint Stephen Urosh became the independent and actual ruler of Serbia. He was faithful to the Lord; like a father he provided for widows and orphans, he pacified quarrels and maintained peace, he was charitable to the poor, and he defended the downtrodden.

In the interests of peace in Serbia and indeed for the preservation of his own life, Saint Stephen was obliged to flee to his kinsman, Prince Lazar. Saint Stephen’s uncle, Vulkashin, immediately seized the throne, but his fear of rivals gave him no peace. Through his sister, Saint Stephen’s mother, he invited his nephew to come to the city of Skopje, on the pretext of a reconciliation. Greeting him with honor, as Tsar, he invited him to go hunting. When Saint Stephen, weary from the hunt, went off with his horse to a well and bent over to take a sip of water, Vulkashin struck him a mortal blow on the head with a mace.

Venerable Joannicius of Devic

Saint Ioannikios (Janićije) was a Serb from Zeta, near the Adriatic Sea. He was the son of pious and God-fearing parents, and he lived during the reign of the last medieval Serbian ruler, Prince George Branković (1427-1458). From his youth, Saint Ioannikios loved solitude, and as an adolescent he left his parents and made his way to eastern Serbia, where he settled in a wooded area called Chrna Reka (Black River), a few miles from the Ibar River. He found a narrow cave where, according to Tradition, Saint Peter of Koriša (June 5) had struggled during the XIII century.

Saint Ioannikios built a cell and lived there for many years in solitude, fasting, and unceasing prayer. In time, people began coming to him from all over Serbia in order to hear his words, and to receive his blessing. Others were drawn to him because they wanted him to guide them in the monastic life. A community grew around him, and they built a church near his cell. However, when people heard about the holiness of his life, he fled to Drnica and hid himself in the thick forest of Devič. Once again, the Saint lived in solitude, weeping, fasting, struggling with demons, and devoting himself to the unceasing Prayer of the Heart.

One day Prince George brought his terminally ill daughter to him, and the Saint healed her. The Prince wanted to know what he could do to express his gratitude. Saint Ioannikios asked him to built a monastery at Devič and dedicate it to the Entrance of the a Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple (November 21). After a holy and God-pleasing life, Saint Ioannikios reposed on December 2, 1430, when he was almost one hundred years old. His grace-filled and wonderworking relics are kept at the monastery. After his death, many miracles have taken place there, and those who entreat him with faith are healed of their sicknesses and afflictions.

In this monastery there once lived a renowned and godly nun, Sister Euphemia, who is better known in the Kossovo region as Blessed Stoina. She built an Ispostnica (House of Silence) in honor of St. Ioannikios. She fell asleep in the Lord in the year 1895.

Saint Ioannikios still performs miracles, just as he did in his lifetime, five hundred years ago. A certain man from Hercegovina, whose name was Miloš wanted to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to venerate the holy places. Just as he was about to embark on his journey, Saint Ioannikios appeared to him in a dream and told him not to go to Jerusalem. "It would be better," the Saint explained, "if you went to Devič and cleaned my church, and put it in order, instead of going to Jerusalem."

Miloš followed the Saint's advice and went to the neglected Devič monastery, cleaned it up, restored it, and gave it new life. He became a monk and remained there until the end of his life.

During the First World War and the Austrian occupation, a Hungarian officer arrived at Devič with some soldiers. He made Igoumen Damaskene take him to the tomb of Saint Ioannikios, and asked him what was under the slab. "It is a holy place," the Igoumen replied.

"What sort of holy place?" the officer asked. "You have some valuables hidden under there, don't you?"

The officer ordered the soldiers to break the slab with pick axes. As they were completing their task, the officer was stricken with pain in the middle of his body. He lay down on a bed and died before that evening. The terrified soldiers abandoned their work and fled from the monastery.

Saint Ioannikios is also commemorated on April 26, the uncovering of his holy relics.

Synaxis of the Gerontissa Icon of the Mother of God

The December 2 Feast Day of the Gerontissa Icon of the Mother of God commemorates a miracle which occurred on the night of December 1, 1948 when the Theotokos saved the Pantokrator Monastery on Mount Athos from a fire. Because of this event, the Icon also came to be known as the “Pyrosoteira” (“Rescuer from fire”).

The Gerontissa Icon is also commemorated on April 4.

Daily Readings for Thursday, December 01, 2022

THURSDAY OF THE 11TH WEEK

ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS

Nahum the Prophet, Philaret the Merciful of Amnia, Ananias the Persian, Holy Father Theocletus the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Lacedaemonia, Our Holy Fathers Ananius and Solochon, Archbishops of Ephesus

ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS 2:13-17; 3:1-5

Brethren, we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things which we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

LUKE 20:9-18

The Lord said this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, that they should give him some of the fruit of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant; him also they beat and treated shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will respect him.' But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.' And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others." When they heard this, they said, "God forbid!" But he looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner'? Every one who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one it will crush him.

Prophet Nahum

The Holy Prophet Nahum, whose name means “God consoles,” was from the village of Elkosh (Galilee). He lived during the seventh century B.C. The Prophet Nahum prophesies the ruin of the Assyrian city of Nineveh because of its iniquity, the destruction of the Israelite kingdom, and the blasphemy of King Sennacherib against God. The Assyrian king Ashurbanipal died in 632 B.C., and over the next two decades, his empire began to crumble. Nineveh fell in 612 B.C.

Nahum differs from most of the prophets in as much as he does not issue any call to repentance, nor does he denounce Israel for infidelity to God.

Details of the prophet’s life are unknown. He died at the age of forty-five, and was buried in his native region. He is the seventh of the Twelve Minor Prophets

The Prophet Nahum and Saint Nahum of Ochrid (December 23) are invoked for people with mental disorders.

Righteous Philaret the Merciful of Amnia in Asia Minor

Righteous Philaret the Merciful, son of George and Anna, was raised in piety and the fear of God. He lived during the eighth century in the village of Amnia in the Paphlagonian district of Asia Minor. His wife, Theoseba, was from a rich and illustrious family, and they had three children: a son John, and daughters Hypatia and Evanthia.

Philaret was a rich and illustrious dignitary, but he did not hoard his wealth. Knowing that many people suffered from poverty, he remembered the words of the Savior about the dread Last Judgment and about “these least ones” (Mt. 25:40); the Apostle Paul’s reminder that we will take nothing with us from this world (1 Tim 6:7); and the assertion of King David that the righteous would not be forsaken (Ps 36/37:25). Philaret, whose name means “lover of virtue,” was famed for his love for the poor.

One day Ishmaelites [Arabs] attacked Paphlagonia, devastating the land and plundering the estate of Philaret. There remained only two oxen, a donkey, a cow with her calf, some beehives, and the house. But he also shared them with the poor. His wife reproached him for being heartless and unconcerned for his own family. Mildly, yet firmly he endured the reproaches of his wife and the jeers of his children. “I have hidden away riches and treasure,” he told his family, “so much that it would be enough for you to feed and clothe yourselves, even if you lived a hundred years without working.”

The saint’s gifts always brought good to the recipient. Whoever received anything from him found that the gift would multiply, and that person would become rich. Knowing this, a certain man came to Saint Philaret asking for a calf so that he could start a herd. The cow missed its calf and began to bellow. Theoseba said to her husband, “You have no pity on us, you merciless man, but don’t you feel sorry for the cow? You have separated her from her calf.” The saint praised his wife, and agreed that it was not right to separate the cow and the calf. Therefore, he called the poor man to whom he had given the calf and told him to take the cow as well.

That year there was a famine, so Saint Philaret took the donkey and went to borrow six bushels of wheat from a friend of his. When he returned home, a poor man asked him for a little wheat, so he told his wife to give the man a bushel. Theoseba said, “First you must give a bushel to each of us in the family, then you can give away the rest as you choose.” Philaretos then gave the man two bushels of wheat. Theoseba said sarcastically, “Give him half the load so you can share it.” The saint measured out a third bushel and gave it to the man. Then Theoseba said, “Why don’t you give him the bag, too, so he can carry it?” He gave him the bag. The exasperated wife said, “Just to spite me, why not give him all the wheat.” Saint Philaret did so.

Now the man was unable to lift the six bushels of wheat, so Theoseba told her husband to give him the donkey so he could carry the wheat home. Blessing his wife, Philaret gave the donkey to the man, who went home rejoicing. Theoseba and the children wept because they were hungry.

The Lord rewarded Philaret for his generosity: when the last measure of wheat was given away, an old friend sent him forty bushels. Theoseba kept most of the wheat for herself and the children, and the saint gave away his share to the poor and had nothing left. When his wife and children were eating, he would go to them and they gave him some food. Theoseba grumbled saying, “How long are you going to keep that treasure of yours hidden? Take it out so we can buy food with it.”

During this time the Byzantine empress Irene (797-802) was seeking a bride for her son, the future emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitos (780-797). Therefore, emissaries were sent throughout all the Empire to find a suitable girl, and the envoys came to Amneia.

When Philaret and Theoseba learned that these most illustrious guests were to visit their house, Philaret was very happy, but Theoseba was sad, for they did not have enough food. But Philaret told his wife to light the fire and to decorate their home. Their neighbors, knowing that imperial envoys were expected, brought everything required for a rich feast.

The envoys were impressed by the saint’s daughters and granddaughters. Seeing their beauty, their deportment, their clothing, and their admirable qualities, the envoys agreed that Philaret’s granddaughter, Maria was exactly what they were looking for. This Maria exceeded all her rivals in quality and modesty and indeed became Constantine’s wife, and the emperor rewarded Philaret.

Thus fame and riches returned to Philaret. But just as before, this holy lover of the poor generously distributed alms and provided a feast for the poor. He and his family served them at the meal. Everyone was astonished at his humility and said: “This is a man of God, a true disciple of Christ.”

He ordered a servant to take three bags and fill one with gold, one with silver, and one with copper coins. When a beggar approached, Philaret ordered his servant to bring forth one of the bags, whichever God’s providence would ordain. Then he would reach into the bag and give to each person, as much as God willed.

Saint Philaret refused to wear fine clothes, nor would he accept any imperial rank. He said it was enough for him to be called the grandfather of the Empress. The saint reached ninety years of age and knew his end was approaching. He went to the Rodolpheia (“The Judgment”) monastery in Constantinople. He gave some gold to the Abbess and asked her to allow him to be buried there, saying that he would depart this life in ten days.

He returned home and became ill. On the tenth day he summoned his family, he exhorted them to imitate his love for the poor if they desired salvation. Then he fell asleep in the Lord. He died in the year 792 and was buried in the Rodolpheia Judgment monastery in Constantinople.

The appearance of a miracle after his death confirmed the sainthood of Righteous Philaret. As they bore the body of the saint to the cemetery, a certain man, possessed by the devil, followed the funeral procession and tried to overturn the coffin. When they reached the grave, the devil threw the man down on the ground and went out of him. Many other miracles and healings also took place at the grave of the saint.

After the death of the righteous Philaret, his wife Theoseba worked at restoring monasteries and churches devastated during a barbarian invasion.

Martyr Ananias of Persia

While Saint Ananias was being tortured for his belief in Christ, he said, “I see a ladder leading to heaven, and radiant men calling me to a marvelous city of light.”

Venerable Botolph of Iken

No information available at this time.

Daily Readings for Wednesday, November 30, 2022

ANDREW THE FIRST- CALLED APOSTLE

ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS

Andrew the First- Called Apostle, Froumentios, Archbishop of Abyssina, Alexander the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Mithymna

ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 4:9-16

Brethren, God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the off-scouring of all things. I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

JOHN 1:35-51

At that time, John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "Where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see." Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! " Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

Saint Sebastian (Dabovich)

No information available at this time.

Apostle Andrew, the Holy and All-Praised First-Called

The Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called was the first of the Apostles to follow Christ, and he later brought his own brother, the holy Apostle Peter, to Christ (John 1:35-42). The future apostle was from Bethsaida, and from his youth he turned with all his soul to God. He did not enter into marriage, and he worked with his brother as a fisherman. When the holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John began to preach, Saint Andrew became his closest disciple. Declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God, Saint John the Baptist himself sent to Christ his own two disciples, the future Apostles Andrew and John the Theologian.

After the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Saint Andrew went to the Eastern lands preaching the Word of God. He went through Asia Minor, Thrace, Macedonia, he reached the River Danube, went along the coast of the Black Sea, through Crimea, the Black Sea region and along the River Dniepr he climbed to the place where the city of Kiev now stands.

He stopped overnight on the hills of Kiev. Rising in the morning, he said to those disciples that were with him: “See these hills? Upon these hills shall shine forth the beneficence of God, and there will be a great city here, and God shall raise up many churches.” The apostle went up around the hills, blessed them and set up a cross. Having prayed, he went up even further along the Dniepr and reached a settlement of the Slavs, where Novgorod was built. From here the apostle went through the land of the Varangians towards Rome for preaching, and again he returned to Thrace, where in the small village of Byzantium, the future Constantinople, he founded the Church of Christ. The name of the holy Apostle Andrew links the mother, the Church of Constantinople, with her daughter, the Russian Church.

On his journeys the First-Called Apostle endured many sufferings and torments from pagans: they cast him out of their cities and they beat him. In Sinope they pelted him with stones, but remaining unharmed, the persistent disciple of Christ continued to preach to people about the Savior. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the Lord worked miracles. By the labors of the holy Apostle Andrew, Christian Churches were established, for which he provided bishops and clergy. The final city to which the Apostle came was the city of Patra, where he was destined to suffer martyrdom.

The Lord worked many miracles through His disciple in Patra. The infirm were made whole, and the blind received their sight. Through the prayers of the Apostle, the illustrious citizen Sosios recovered from serious illness and Maximilla and Stratokles, the wife and brother of the governor of Patra, were healed. The miracles accomplished by the Apostle and his fiery speech enlightened almost all the citizens of the city of Patra with the true Faith.

Few pagans remained at Patra, but among them was the prefect of the city, Aegeatos. The Apostle Andrew repeatedly turned to him with the words of the Gospel. But even the miracles of the Apostle did not convince Aegeatos. The holy Apostle with love and humility appealed to his soul, striving to reveal to him the Christian mystery of life eternal, through the wonderworking power of the Holy Cross of the Lord. The angry Aegeatos gave orders to crucify the apostle. The pagan thought he might undo Saint Andrew’s preaching if he were to put him to death on the cross.

Saint Andrew the First-Called accepted the decision of the prefect with joy and with prayer to the Lord, and went willingly to the place of execution. In order to prolong the suffering of the saint, Aegeatos gave orders not to nail the saint’s hands and feet, but to tie them to the cross. For two days the apostle taught the citizens who gathered about. The people, in listening to him, with all their souls pitied him and tried to take Saint Andrew down from the cross. Fearing a riot of the people, Aegeatos gave orders to stop the execution. But the holy apostle began to pray that the Lord would grant him death on the cross. Just as the soldiers tried to take hold of the Apostle Andrew, they lost control of their hands. The crucified apostle, having given glory to God, said: “Lord Jesus Christ, receive my spirit.” Then a blazing ray of divine light illumined the cross and the martyr crucified upon it. When the light faded, the holy Apostle Andrew had already given up his holy soul to the Lord. Maximilla, the wife of the prefect, had the body of the saint taken down from the cross, and buried him with honor.

A few centuries later, under the emperor Constantine the Great, the relics of the holy Apostle Andrew were solemnly transferred to Constantinople and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles beside the relics of the holy Evangelist Luke and Saint Paul’s disciple Saint Timothy.

Saint Frumentius, Archbishop of Abyssinia, Ethiopia

Saint Frumentius, Archbishop of Inda (Ethiopia, formerly Abyssinia), was a native of the city of Tyre. While still a child, he came to Abyssinia by divine Providence. Growing up near the imperial court, he became a friend and chief counselor of the Abyssinian emperor, and afterwards tutor to his son, who ascended the throne while still a minor after the death of his father.

With the consent of the new emperor, Saint Frumentius journeyed to his native land and afterwards visited Alexandria and its patriarch, Saint Athanasius the Great (May 2). With the blessing of Saint Athanasius, Frumentius was elevated to become Bishop of Abyssinia and he returned to that country, which had sheltered him from his childhood.

After he returned from his consecration, Saint Frumentius began to perform miracles, bringing many people to the Church. The emperor said to him, “You have lived among us for many years, yet we never saw you perform such wonders. Why is it that you do so now?” The saint replied, “This has nothing to do with me, but is due to the grace of the priesthood.” Then the emperor and many of his subjects received holy Baptism.

Having accomplished the apostolic task of converting the Abyssinian nation to Christ, Saint Frumentius zealously and fruitfully guided the Church entrusted him by God for many years, then peacefully departed to the Lord in great old age.

Entrance of the Apostle Andrew into Georgia

No information available at this time.

Saint Vakhtang Gorgasali, King of Georgia

The holy and right-believing king Vakhtang I ascended the throne of Kartli at the age of fifteen. At that time Kartli was continually being invaded by the Persians from the south and by the Ossetians from the north. The situation was no better in western Georgia: the Byzantines had captured all the lands from Egrisi to Tsikhegoji.

After his coronation, the young King Vakhtang summoned his court and addressed his dedicated servants with great wisdom. He said that the sorrowful circumstances in which the nation had found itself were a manifestation of God’s anger at the sins of the king and the people. He called upon everyone to struggle in unity and selflessness on behalf of the Faith and motherland.

King Vakhtang led a victorious campaign against the Ossetians, freed the captive princess (his older sister), and signed several treaties with the Caucasian mountain tribes to secure their cooperation in the struggle against foreign conquerors. Then he carried out another campaign in western Georgia, freed that region from the Byzantines, reinforced the authority of King Gubaz, and returned in triumph to Kartli.

King Vakhtang was remarkable in faith, wisdom, grace, virtue, and appearance (he towered above all others at a stately seven feet ten inches). He spent many nights in prayer and distributed alms to the poor, in this way dedicating his life to God. King Vakhtang could fight tirelessly in battle. Vested in armor and fully armed, he could carry a war-horse on his shoulders and climb from Mtskheta to the Armazi Fortress in the mountains outside the city. On foot he could outrun a deer. The holy king was judicious in politics, displayed great composure, and preserved a sense of calm even when critical decisions needed to be made.

On the brow of Vakhtang’s military helmet was depicted a wolf, and on the back, a lion. Catching a glimpse of the helmet with the wolf and lion, the Persians would cry out to one another: “Dar’ az gurgsar!” (“Beware of the wolf’s head!”) This was the source of King Vakhtang’s appellation “Gorgasali.”

During King Vakhtang’s reign the Georgian Church was first recognized as autocephalous. When the holy king banished the pagan fire-worshippers from Georgia, he also sent a certain Bishop Michael—who was inclined to the Monophysite heresy, which had been planted in Georgia by the Persians—to Constantinople to be tried by the patriarch. The bishop had disgracefully cursed the king and his army for rising up against the Monophysites. In fact, he was so infuriated that when King Vakhtang approached him to receive his blessing, he kicked him in the mouth and broke several of his teeth.

The patriarch of Constantinople subsequently defrocked Bishop Michael and sent him to a monastery to repent.

More importantly perhaps, the patriarch and the Byzantine emperor then sent to the patriarch of Antioch several clergymen whom King Vakhtang had chosen for consecration. In Antioch the patriarch consecrated twelve of these clergymen as bishops and enthroned a certain Petre as the first Catholicos of Georgia.

Vakhtang fulfilled the will of Holy King Mirian by founding the Georgian Holy Cross Monastery in Jerusalem. In addition, he replaced a wooden church that had been built in Mtskheta at the time of Saint Nino with a church made of stone. During his reign several new dioceses were founded. King Vakhtang built a cathedral in Nikozi (Inner Kartli) and established a new diocese there, to which he translated the holy relics of the Protomartyr Razhden.

King Vakhtang built fortresses at Tukhari, Artanuji, and Akhiza; founded monasteries in Klarjeti at Artanuji, Mere, Shindobi, and Akhiza; and established many other strongholds, churches, and monasteries as well. He built a new royal residence in Ujarma and laid the foundations of the new Georgian capital, Tbilisi. His political creed consisted of three parts: an equal union of the Georgian Church with the Byzantine Church, national independence, and the unity of the Church and nation.

In the year 502 the sixty-year-old King Vakhtang was obliged to defend his country for the last time. In a battle with the Persians he was fatally wounded when a poisoned arrow pierced him under the arm. Before he died, King Vakhtang summoned the clergy, his family and his court and urged them to be strong in the Faith and to seek death for Christ’s sake in order to gain eternal glory.

All of Georgia mourned the passing of the king. His body was moved from the royal residence in Ujarma to Mtskheta, to Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, which he had himself built. There he was buried with great honor.

Some fifteen centuries later, with the blessing of Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, an addition was built onto the Sioni Patriarchal Cathedral in Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali’s name, and a cathedral in his honor was founded in the city of Rustavi.

Hierarch Peter, first Catholicos of Georgia

Saint Peter was the first catholicos of Georgia. He led the Church of Kartli from the 460s through the beginning of the 6th century. According to God’s will, Saint Peter inaugurated the dynasty of the chief shepherds of Georgia.

It is written in the biography of Holy King Vakhtang IV Gorgasali that the king was introduced to Peter, a pupil of Saint Gregory the Theologian, during one of his visits to Byzantium, and he became very close to him. At that time he was also introduced to the future catholicos Samuel.

The close spiritual bond of the holy king and the catholicos, combined with their concerted efforts on behalf of the Church, contributed immeasurably to the establishment of friendly political relations between Georgia and Byzantium and the proclamation of the autocephaly of the Georgian Apostolic Church.

Having returned to his own capital, King Vakhtang sent an envoy to Byzantium to find him a wife. He also sent a request that the hierarch Peter be elevated as catholicos and that the priest Samuel be consecrated bishop. He pleaded with the patriarch to hasten the arrival of Catholicos Peter and the twelve bishops with him.

The patriarch of Constantinople approved King Vakhtang’s request to institute the rank of catholicos of Georgia. Since the Georgian Church was still under the jurisdiction of Antioch, Peter and Samuel were sent to the Antiochian patriarch himself to be elevated. The autocephaly of the Georgian Church was proclaimed upon the arrival of the holy fathers in Georgia.

Saint Peter ruled the Church according to the principle of autocephaly and established a form of self-rule that would later help to increase the authority of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church.

The mutual respect and cooperation of the catholicos and the holy king laid the foundations for future, harmonious relations between secular and Church authorities in Georgia. Their example defined the authority of the Church and a national love and respect for the king.

Peter accompanied Holy King Vakhtang Gorgasali to war with the Persians in 502. It is written that “the fatally wounded king Vakhtang summoned the catholicos, the queen, his sons and all the nobility.” Saint Peter heard the king’s last confession, granted the remission of his sins, presided at his funeral service, and blessed the prince Dachi (502-514) to succeed him as king of Kartli.

Holy Catholicos Peter led the Georgian Church with great wisdom to the end of his days.

The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church canonized the holy catholicos Peter and the holy catholicos Samuel on October 17, 2002.

Hierarch Samuel, Second Catholicos of Georgia

Saint Samuel ascended the throne of the Apostolic Orthodox Church of Georgia in the 6th century, after the holy catholicos Peter.

Like Saint Peter, Samuel was a native of Byzantium. He arrived with Catholicos Peter in Georgia as a bishop, at the invitation of King Vakhtang Gorgasali and with the blessing of the patriarch of Constantinople.

At that time Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta was the residence of the catholicos.

After the repose of Catholicos Peter, Samuel succeeded him, and King Dachi “bestowed upon him the city of Mtskheta, according to the will of King Vakhtang.” Saint Samuel led the Georgian Church during the reigns of King Dachi and his son Bakur. He initiated construction of Tsqarostavi Church in the Javakheti region.

What we know of Saint Samuel’s activity paints him as a pastor who demonstrated great foresight and cared deeply about his flock. He was also a close acquaintance of the holy martyr Queen Shushanik.

Saint Samuel faithfully served the Autocephalous Church of Georgia and labored to strengthen the Christian Faith of the Georgian people to the end of his days.

The Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church canonized the holy catholicos Peter and the holy catholicos Samuel on October 17, 2002.

Daily Readings for Tuesday, November 29, 2022

TUESDAY OF THE 11TH WEEK

ABSTAIN FROM MEAT, FISH, DAIRY, EGGS

Paramonus, Philumenus, and their 370 Companion Martyrs in Bithynia, Our Righteous Father Nicholas, Archbishop of Thessolonica, Hieromartyr Dionysios, Bishop of Corinth, Phaedrus the Martyr

ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS 1:10-12; 2:1-2

Brethren, our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of Christ has come.

LUKE 19:45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of robbers." And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words.

Martyr Paramon and 370 Martyrs in Bithynia

The Holy Martyr Paramon and the 370 Martyrs with him suffered for their faith in Christ in the year 250 during the rule of the emperor Decius (249-251). The governor of the Eastern regions, Aquianus, had locked up 370 Christians in prison, urging them to abjure Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols.

They subjected the captives to beatings, hoping by torture and the threat of death to persuade them to renounce Christ and worship the pagan gods. One of the local inhabitants, Paramon by name, openly denounced the cruel governor and confessed his faith in the One True God, the Lord Jesus Christ. They beheaded Saint Paramon after fierce tortures, together with the other 370 martyrs.

Martyr Philoumenus of Ancyra

The Holy Martyr Philoumenus suffered for Christ in the year 274, during the persecution against Christians by the emperor Aurelian (270-275). Saint Philoumenus was a bread merchant in Ancyra. Envious persons reported to the governor Felix that Philoumenus was a Christian, and so he came before a judge.

Saint Philoumenus did not renounce Christ. For this they hammered nails into his hands, feet and head, and they forced him to walk. The holy martyr bravely endured the torments and he died from loss of blood, giving up his soul to God.

Martyr Valerian

No information available at this time.

Martyr Phaedrus

No information available at this time.

Venerable Acacius of Sinai, who is mentioned in the Ladder

Saint Acacius of Sinai lived during the sixth century and was a novice at a certain monastery in Asia. The humble monk distinguished himself by his patient and unquestioning obedience to his Elder, a harsh and dissolute man. He forced his disciple to toil excessively, starved him with hunger, and beat him without mercy. Despite such treatment, Saint Acacius meekly endured the affliction and thanked God for everything. Saint Acacius died after suffering these torments for nine years.

Five days after Acacius was buried, his Elder told another Elder about the death of his disciple. The second Elder did not believe that the young monk was dead. They went to the grave of Acacius and the second Elder called out: “Brother Acacius, are you dead?” From the grave a voice replied, “No, Father, how is it possible for an obedient man to die?” The startled Elder of Saint Acacius fell down with tears before the grave, asking forgiveness of his disciple.

After this he repented, constantly saying to the Fathers, “I have committed murder.” He lived in a cell near the grave of Saint Acacius, and he ended his life in prayer and in meekness. Saint John Climacus (March 30) mentions Saint Acacius in The Ladder (Step 4:110) as an example of endurance and obedience, and of the rewards for these virtues.

Saint Acacius is also commemorated on July 7.

Venerable Nectarius the Obedient of the Kiev Near Caves

The Venerable Nektarios struggled in the Kiev Caves Monastery during the XII century. Because of his unquestioning obedience to the older brethren, and for the diligence he showed in his labors, Saint Nektarios was called "the Obedient." He reposed peacefully after a life of much toil and many spiritual struggles. He was buried in the Near Caves of Saint Anthony.

Saint Nektarios is also commemorated on September 28 and on the second Sunday of Great Lent.

Hieromartyr Abibus, Bishop of Nekresi in Georgia

Saint Abibus of Nekresi was one of the Thirteen Syrian Fathers who arrived in Georgia in the 6th century under the leadership of Saint John of Zedazeni.

With the blessing of his instructor, Saint Abibus began his apostolic activity in Nekresi, a village set among the hills in the eastern region of Kakheti. For his virtuous deeds, Saint Abibus was soon consecrated bishop of his diocese.

According to the chronicle Life of Kartli, Saint Abibus converted not only Georgians but also most of the mountain tribes—including the Dagestani/Didoians—to the Christian Faith. Abounding with apostolic zeal, Saint Abibus journeyed throughout the villages of his diocese, preaching the Truth and calling upon all to strengthen the true Faith.

The time that Saint Abibus was serving as bishop coincided with a dark period of Persian rule in eastern Georgia. The Persians exerted every effort to implant their faith—the worship of fire—and everywhere erected altars where the fire burned without ceasing.

Once in the village of Rekhi the holy hierarch, finding a group of fire-worshipers forcing the Georgian faithful to worship the flame, poured water on their fire to extinguish it. The enraged pagan priests bound Saint Abibus, beat him cruelly, locked him up, and reported the incident to the marzban. The marzban ordered that the bishop be brought to him at once.

Saint Abibus was a friend of the holy wonderworker Simeon the Stylite of the Wonderful Mountain. Saint Simeon received a sign from God of the imminent martyrdom of Saint Abibus and, in order to console him, sent him a letter, an evlogia (a blessing—probably a piece of prosphoron or some other holy object) and a staff. While Abibus was being escorted to the marzban, in the village of Ialdo he met a messenger from Antioch who presented him with Saint Simeon’s gifts. The letter and gifts gladdened the holy hierarch and strengthened him for his martyrdom. Then Saint Abibus was approached by a group of Christians who offered to help him escape, but he graciously declined.

Having arrived in Mtskheta, the saint prayed at Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, then requested that the guards permit him to meet with Saint Shio of Mgvime. The Persians granted his request, and the spiritual brothers greeted one another with love and prayed together to the Lord.

Saint Abibus was brought before the dread marzban and asked how he could dare raise his hand against the Persian god. He replied with complete composure, saying, “I did not kill any god; rather I extinguished a fire. Fire is not a god, but a part of nature, which is created by God. Your fire was burning wood, and a little water was enough to extinguish it. The water turned out to be stronger. Your fury amazes me. Isn’t it humiliating to call something a god which has no soul?”

Furious at this response, the marzban ordered the holy hierarch’s execution.

The executioners mercilessly beat the blessed Abibus and shattered his skull with stones. Then they dragged his body through the city, cast it to the beasts, and assigned a guard to ensure that the Christians did not come to steal it. Nevertheless, that night the priests and monks of Rekhi came, took the body of the holy martyr, and buried it with great honor at Samtavisi Monastery (located midway between Mtskheta and Gori).

Many miraculous healings have taken place over the grave of Saint Abibus. During the rule of Prince Stepanoz of Kartli, the incorrupt relics of Saint Abibus were translated from Samtavisi to Samtavro Monastery in Mtskheta, according to the decree of Catholicos Tabori. They were buried under the holy altar at Samtavro Church.

Daily Readings for Monday, November 28, 2022

MONDAY OF THE 11TH WEEK

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

Stephen the New, Irenarchos & his Companion Martyrs at Sebaste, Auxentius, 16 Martyrs of Tiberioupolis

ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE THESSALONIANS 1:1-10

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring.
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering – since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed.

LUKE 19:37-44

At that time, as Jesus was drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Monastic Martyr and Confessor Stephen the New

The Monk Martyr and Confessor Stephen the New was born in 715 at Constantinople into a pious Christian family. His parents, having two daughters, prayed the Lord for a son. The mother of the new-born Stephen took him to the Blachernae church of the Most Holy Theotokos and dedicated him to God.

During the reign of the emperor Leo the Isaurian (716-741) there was a persecution against the holy icons and against those venerating them. With the support of the emperor, the adherents of the Iconoclast heresy seized control of the supreme positions of authority in the Empire and in the Church. Persecuted by the powers of this world, Orthodoxy was preserved in monasteries far from the capital, in solitary cells, and in the brave and faithful hearts of its followers.

The Orthodox parents of Saint Stephen, grieved by the prevailing impiety, fled from Constantinople to Bithynia, and they gave over their sixteen-year-old son in obedience to the monk John, who labored in asceticism in a solitary place on the Mount of Saint Auxentius. Saint Stephen dwelt with the venerable monk John for more than fifteen years, devoting himself totally to this spirit-bearing Elder, and learning monastic activity from him. Here Stephen received the news that his father was dead, and his mother and sisters had been tonsured as nuns.

After a certain time his teacher John also died. With deep sorrow Saint Stephen buried his venerable body, and continued with monastic effort in his cave by himself. Soon monks began to come to the ascetic, desiring to learn from him the virtuous and salvific life, and a monastery was established, with Saint Stephen as the igumen. At forty-two years of age Stephen left the monastery he founded, and he went to another mountain, on whose summit he dwelt in deep seclusion in a solitary cell. But here also a community of monks soon gathered, seeking the spiritual guidance of Saint Stephen.

Leo the Isaurian was succeeded by Constantine Copronymos (741-775), a fiercer persecutor of the Orthodox, and an even more zealous iconoclast. The emperor convened an Iconoclast Council, attended by 358 bishops from the Eastern provinces. However, except for Constantine, the Archbishop of Constantinople, illegitimately raised to the patriarchal throne by the power of Copronymos, not one of the other patriarchs participated in the wicked doings of this Council, thus making it less likely to style itself as “ecumenical.” This council of heretics, at the instigation of the emperor and the archbishop, described icons as idols, and pronounced an anathema on all who venerated icons in the Orthodox manner, and it described icon veneration as heresy.

Meanwhile, the monastery of Mount Auxentius and its igumen became known in the capital. They told the emperor about the ascetic life of the monks, about their Orthodox piety, about the igumen Stephen’s gift of wonderworking, and of how Saint Stephen’s fame had spread far beyond the region of the monastery, and that the name of its head was accorded universal respect and love. The saint’s open encouragement of icon veneration and the implied rebuff to the persecutors of Orthodoxy within the monastery of Mount Auxentius especially angered the emperor. Archbishop Constantine realized that in the person of Saint Stephen he had a strong and implacable opponent of his iconoclastic intentions, and he plotted how he might draw him over to his side or else destroy him.

They tried to lure Saint Stephen into the Iconoclast camp, at first with flattery and bribery, then by threats, but in vain. Then they slandered the saint, accusing him of falling into sin with the nun Anna. But his guilt was not proven, since the nun courageously denied any guilt and died under torture and beatings. Finally, the emperor gave orders to lock up the saint in prison, and to destroy his monastery. Iconoclast bishops were sent to Saint Stephen in prison, trying to persuade him of the dogmatic correctness of the Iconoclast position. But the saint easily refuted all the arguments of the heretics and he remained true to Orthodoxy.

Then the emperor ordered that the saint be exiled on one of the islands in the Sea of Marmora. Saint Stephen settled into a cave, and there also his disciples soon gathered. After a certain while the saint left the brethren and took upon himself the exploit of living atop a pillar. News of the stylite Stephen, and the miracles worked by his prayers, spread throughout all the Empire and strengthened the faith and spirit of Orthodoxy in the people.

The emperor gave orders to transfer Saint Stephen to prison on the island of Pharos, and then to bring him to trial. At the trial, the saint refuted the arguments of the heretics sitting in judgment upon him. He explained the dogmatic essence of icon veneration, and he denounced the Iconoclasts because in blaspheming icons, they blasphemed Christ and the Mother of God. As proof, the saint pointed to a golden coin inscribed with the image of the emperor. He asked the judges what would happen to a man who threw the coin to the ground , and then trampled the emperor’s image under his feet. They replied that such a man would certainly be punished for dishonoring the image of the emperor. The saint said that an even greater punishment awaited anyone who would dishonor the image of the King of Heaven and His Saints, and with that he spat on the coin, threw it to the ground, and began to trample it underfoot.

The emperor gave orders to take the saint to prison, where already there were languishing 342 Elders, condemned for the veneration of icons. In this prison Saint Stephen spent eleven months, consoling the imprisoned. The prison became like a monastery, where the usual prayers and hymns were chanted according to the Typikon. The people came to the prison in crowds and asked Saint Stephen to pray for them.

When the emperor learned that the saint had organized a monastery in prison, where they prayed and venerated holy icons, he sent two of his own servants, twin-brothers, to beat the saint to death. When these brothers went to the prison and beheld the face of the monk shining with a divine light, they fell down on their knees before him, asking his forgiveness and prayers, then they told the emperor that his command had been carried out. But the emperor learned the truth and he resorted to yet another lie. Informing his soldiers that the saint was plotting to remove him from the throne, he sent them to the prison. The holy confessor himself came out to the furious soldiers, who seized him and dragged him through the streets of the city. They then threw the lacerated body of the martyr into a pit, where they were wont to bury criminals.

On the following morning a fiery cloud appeared over Mount Auxentius, and then a heavy darkness descended upon the capital, accompanied by hail, which killed many people.

Monastic Martyrs and Confessors Auxentius, Basil, Gregory, another Gregory, John, Andrew, Peter and many others

The Holy Martyrs Stephen, Basil, Gregory, another Gregory, John, Andrew, Peter, and many others suffered for the veneration of holy icons with the Monk Martyr Stephen the New, with whom they languished together in prison. After his martyric death, they were executed.

Martyr Anna

Saint Anna was a noblewoman who sold all her possessions and gave the money to the poor. She received the monastic tonsure from Saint Stephen the New while he was living on Mount Auxentius in Bithynia. He sent her to live in the women’s monastery called Trichinarion (Community of hairshirt-wearers).

When the iconoclasts tried to turn Saint Stephen from venerating the holy icons, they tried flattery, bribery, and threats, but all their efforts were in vain. Then they accused him of visiting the Trichinarion Monastery at night and falling into sin with the nun Anna. Although her own maidservant testified against her (she was promised her freedom and marriage to a nobleman if she did), Saint Anna denied any guilt.

The emperor’s soldiers came to the monastery and seized Saint Anna and brought her before him, but she refused to lie about Saint Stephen. Therefore Emperor Constantine threw her into a dungeon in Constantinople.

The next morning the emperor sat in a public building with an assembled crowd, and had Saint Anna brought to his presence. Since she insisted that both she and Saint Stephen were innocent, the emperor had her stripped naked in the sight of all. During her interrogation, she remained silent. Meanwhile, her maidservant falsely swore that Saint Stephen had sinned with her mistress.

Angered by her refusal to speak, the emperor had Saint Anna stretched out on the ground, where soldiers beat her with rods. During this torment, she said, “I have never sinned with Stephen. Lord, have mercy.” The soldiers continued to beat her until she was almost dead.

The emperor returned to his palace, leaving orders that Saint Anna be imprisoned in one of the city’s abandoned monasteries. There she departed to the Lord, receiving from Him the twin crowns of virginity and martyrdom.

Martyr Irenarchus and Seven Women Martyrs at Sebaste

The Holy Martyr Irenarchus was from Sebaste, Armenia, and lived during the reign of Diocletian (284-305). When he was young, he would minister to the martyrs in prison after they were tortured.

He once saw seven women being tortured for Christ, who bravely endured their torments. Saint Irenarchus marveled at this because they showed great courage in standing up to the tyrant, even though they were weak by nature.

Illumined by divine grace, Saint Irenarchus confessed Christ. First he endured trials by fire and water, then he was beheaded with the seven holy women in the year 303.

Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov

Saint Theodore, Archbishop of Rostov, in the world John, was the son of Stephen (brother of Saint Sergius of Radonezh), who occupied an important post under Prince Andrew of Radonezh. Left a widower, Stephen became a monk, and together with his twelve-year-old son, he went to the monastery to Saint Sergius, who foreseeing the ascetic life of the child John, tonsured him with the name Theodore on the Feast of Saint Theodore the Hair-Shirt Wearer (April 20).

After Theodore attained an appropriate age, he was given a blessing to be ordained to the priesthood. With the blessing of Saint Sergius, Saint Theodore built a church in honor of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and founded a monastery on the banks of the River Moskva, at the place called Simonovo. Soon the monastery began to attract a throng of people. Saint Theodore built a cell five versts from the Moscow Kremlin, and pursued new ascetical labors, and here disciples gathered around him. Saint Sergius, visiting this place, blessed the founding of a monastery, and Metropolitan Alexis blessed the construction of a church in the name of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos at Novoe Simonovo, which also had its foundations laid in 1379. The old Simonov monastery remained the burial place of monks.

Because of his virtuous life and strict asceticism, Saint Theodore became known in Moscow. The Metropolitan Saint Alexis elevated him to the rank of igumen, and Great Prince Demetrius of the Don chose him as his father confessor. Saint Theodore journeyed to Constantinople several times on church matters for the Russian Metropolitan. On his first journey in 1384, Patriarch Nilus made him an archimandrite. The Simonov monastery was put directly under the Patriarch, thus becoming stavropegial. In 1387, he was consecrated archbishop and occupied the See of Rostov.

Being the igumen, and then the archimandrite of the Simonov monastery, and despite being occupied with churchly matters, Saint Theodore stalwartly guided those in the monastic life and counted many great and famous ascetics among his disciples. Saints Cyril (June 9) and Therapon (May 27), the future founders of two famous White Lake monasteries, were tonsured at the Simonov monastery. Saint Theodore occupied himself with iconography, and he adorned with icons of his own painting both the Simonov monastery, and many Moscow churches.

At Rostov, Archbishop Theodore founded the Nativity of the Virgin monastery.

The blessed death of the saint occurred on November 28, 1394. His relics are in the Rostov Dormition cathedral.

Saint Theodore is also commemorated on May 23.

Martyr Timothy and his companions, at Tiberiopolis

Saint Timothy was a bishop who was imprisoned by Julian the Apostate (331-363) together with his fellow bishop Theodore; the priests Timothy, Peter, John, Sergius, Theodore, Nikēphóros; the deacons Basil and Thomas; the monks Hierotheus, Daniel, Chariton, Socrates, Comasius; and Etymasius. They all suffered martyrdom in Tiberiopolis in 361.

Hieromartyr Metropolitan Seraphim of Chichagov

No information available at this time.

Martyr Hristo of Bulgaria

No information available at this time.