Category Archives: Daily Readings

Daily Readings for Sunday, September 25, 2022

1ST SUNDAY OF LUKE

NO FAST

1st Sunday of Luke, Euphrosyne of Alexandria, Paphnoutios the Martyr & his 546 Companions in Egypt, Synaxis of the Most Holy Theotokos of Evangelistria, Mochos, Our Righteous Father Sergius of Radonezh, Finbar the Confessor, First Bishop of Cork

ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 4:6-15

Brethren, it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness, " who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For while we live we are always being given up to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, "I believed, and so I spoke, " we too believe, and so we speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

LUKE 5:1-11

At that time, as Jesus was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he was astonished, and all who were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Repose of Venerable Sergius the Wonderworker, Abbot of Radonezh

Saint Sergius of Radonezh was born in the village of Varnitsa, near Rostov, on May 3, 1314. His parents were the pious and illustrious nobles Cyril and Maria (September 28). The Lord chose him while still in his mother’s womb. In the Life of Saint Sergius it is reported that even before the birth of her son, Saint Maria and those praying heard the thrice-repeated cry of the infant at the Divine Liturgy: before the reading of the Holy Gospel, during the Cherubic hymn, and when the priest pronounced: “Holy Things are for the Holy.”

God gave Cyril and Maria a son whom they named Bartholomew. From his very first days of life the infant amazed everyone by his fasting. On Wednesdays and Fridays he would not accept milk from his mother, and on other days, if Maria used oil in the food, the infant also refused the milk of his mother. Noticing this, Maria refrained altogether from food with oil.

At the age of seven, Bartholomew was sent to study together with his two brothers: his older brother Stephen, and his younger brother Peter. His brothers learned successfully, but Bartholomew fell behind in his studies, even though the teacher gave him much special attention. The parents scolded the child, the teacher chastised him, and his classmates made fun of his lack of comprehension. Finally, Bartholomew besought the Lord with tears to grant him the ability to read.

Once, his father sent Bartholomew out after the horses in the field. Along the way he met an angel sent by God under the appearance of a monk. The Elder stood at prayer beneath an oak in a field. Bartholomew approached him, and bowing, waited for the Elder to finish praying. The monk blessed him, gave him a kiss and asked what he wanted.

Bartholomew answered, “With all my soul I want to learn reading and writing. Holy Father, pray for me to God, that He may help me to become literate.” The monk fulfilled Bartholomew’s request, offering up his prayer to God. In blessing the child he said to him: “Henceforth, my child, God gives you to understand reading and writing, and in this you will surpass your brothers and peers” (See the famous M. Nesterov painting “Vision of Bartholomew”).

Then the Elder took a vessel and gave Bartholomew a piece of prosphora. “Take, child, and eat,” said he. “This is given to you as a sign of the grace of God, and for the understanding of Holy Scripture.” The Elder wanted to leave, but Bartholomew asked him to visit at the home of his parents. His parents received their guest with joy and offered him their hospitality.

The Elder replied that it was proper to partake of spiritual nourishment first, and he bade their son to read the Psalter. Bartholomew began to read, and his parents were amazed at the change that had occured with their son. In parting, the Elder prophetically said of Saint Sergius, “Your son shall be great before God and the people. He shall become a chosen habitation of the Holy Spirit.”

After this the holy child read without difficulty and understood the contents of books. He became immersed in prayer with a special fervor, not missing a single church service. Already in childhood he imposed upon himself a strict fast. He ate nothing on Wednesdays and Fridays, and on the other days he sustained himself on bread and water.

About the year 1328, the parents of Saint Sergius moved from Rostov to Radonezh. When their older sons married, Cyril and Maria received the monastic schema shortly before their death at the Khot’kov monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, not far from Radonezh.

Later on, the older brother Stephen was widowed and became a monk at this monastery. Having buried his parents, Bartholomew and his brother Stephen withdrew into the forest (12 versts from Radonezh) to live in the wilderness. At first they made cells, and then a small church, and with the blessing of Metropolitan Theognostus, it was consecrated in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. But soon, unable to bear the difficulties of life in the wilderness, Stephen left his brother and went on to the Moscow Theophany monastery, where he became close to Saint Alexis, afterwards Metropolitan of Moscow. (February 12).

On October 7,1337 Bartholomew was tonsured by Igumen Metrophanes, taking the name of the holy Martyr Sergius (October 7), and he started to build a new habitation to the glory of the Life-Creating Trinity. Suffering temptations and demonic apparitions, Saint Sergius advanced from strength to strength. Gradually he became known to other monks seeking his guidance. Saint Sergius accepted all with love, and soon a brotherhood of twelve monks were gathered in the small monastery.

Their experienced spiritual guide distinguished himself by an extraordinary love for work. With his own hands he built several cells, he carried water, he chopped wood, baked bread, sewed clothing, prepared food for the brethren and humbly took on other tasks. Saint Sergius combined the heavy work with prayer, vigil and fasting.

The brethren were amazed that with such severe exertion the health of their guide did not deteriorate, but rather became all the more hearty. It was not without difficulty that they implored Saint Sergius to accept the position of igumen of the monastery.

In 1354 Bishop Athanasius of Volyn ordained the saint a hieromonk and elevated him to the rank of igumen. Just as before, monastic obediences were strictly fulfilled at the monastery. With the expansion of the monastery, its needs also grew. Often the monks had only scant food, but through the prayers of Saint Sergius unknown people provided the necessities.

Reports of the exploits of Saint Sergius became known even at Constantinople, and Patriarch Philotheus sent to the monk a cross, a “paraman” (monastic clothing, a four-cornered cloth tied with cords to the chest and worn beneath other garb, and adorned with symbols of the Lord’s Passion) and schema-robe in blessing for new deeds, and a grammota of blessing, in which the Patriarch counselled the chosen of God to organize a cenobitic monastery. The monk set off with the patriarchal missive to Saint Alexis, and received from him the counsel to introduce a strict manner of cenobitic life. The monks began to grumble at the strictness of the monastic Rule, and Saint Sergius was compelled to forsake the monastery. At the River Kirzhach he founded a monastery in honor of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos. Matters at the former monastery went quickly into disarray, and the remaining monks recoursed to Saint Alexis that he should get the saint to return.

Saint Sergius unquestioningly obeyed the holy hierarch, and left in place of himself at the Kirzhachsk monastery his disciple, Saint Roman.

Already during his lifetime Saint Sergius had been vouchsafed the gift of wonderworking. He raised a lad, at a point when the despairing father had given up on his only son as lost. Reports about the miracles worked by Saint Sergius began quickly to spread about, and the sick began to come to him, both from the surrounding villages and also from remote places. And no one left from Saint Sergius without receiving healing of infirmities and edifying counsel. Everyone gave glory for Saint Sergius, and reverenced him on an equal with the ancient holy Fathers. But human glory did not hold allure for the great ascetic, and as before he remained the example of monastic humility.

One time Saint Stephen, Bishop of Perm (April 27), who deeply revered Saint Sergius, was on journey from his diocese to Moscow. The roadway passed eight versts distant from the Sergiev monastery. Intending to visit the monastery on his return trip, the saint stopped, and having recited a prayer, he bowed to Saint Sergius with the words: “Peace be to thee, spiritual brother.” At this instant Saint Sergius was sitting in the trapeza for a meal with the brethren. In reply to the blessing of the holy hierarch, Saint Sergius rose up, recited a prayer, and made a return blessing to Saint Stephen. Certain of the disciples, astonished at the extraordinary action of Saint Sergius, hastened off to the indicated place, and became convinced of the veracity of the vision.

Gradually the monks began to witness also other similar actions. Once, during Liturgy, an angel of the Lord served with the saint, but Saint Sergius in his humility forbade anyone to tell about this until after his death.

Saint Sergius was connected with Saint Alexis by close bonds of spiritual friendship and brotherly love. Saint Alexis in his declining years summoned Saint Sergius to him and besought him to accept to be Russian Metropolitan, but Saint Sergius humbly declined to be primate.

The Russian Land at this time suffered under the Mongol-Tatar Yoke. Having gathered an army, Great-prince Demetrius Ioannovich of the Don went to monastery of Saint Sergius to ask blessing in the pending struggle. Saint Sergius gave blessing to two monks of his monastery to render help to the great-prince: the Schemamonk Andrei [Oslyaba] and the Schemamonk Alexander [Peresvet], and he predicted the victory for prince Demetrius. The prophecy of Saint Sergius was fulfilled: on September 8, 1380, on the feastday of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos, Russian soldiers gained a total victory over the Tatar hordes at Kulikovo Pole (Kulikovo Field), and set in place the beginning of the liberation of the Russian Land from the Mongol Yoke. During the fighting Saint Sergius and the brethren stood at prayer and besought God to grant victory to the Russian forces.

For his angelic manner of life Saint Sergius was granted a heavenly vision by God. One time by night Abba Sergius was reading the rule of prayer beneath an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Having completed the reading of the canon to the Mother of God, he sat down to rest, but suddenly he said to his disciple, Saint Mikhei (May 6), that there awaited them a wondrous visitation. After a moment the Mother of God appeared accompanied by the holy Apostles Peter and John the Theologian. Due to the extraordinary bright light Saint Sergius fell down, but the Most Holy Theotokos touched Her hands to him, and in blessing him promised always to be Protectress of his holy monastery.

Having reached old age, and foreseeing his own end six months beforehand, Saint Sergius summoned the brethren to him and designated his disciple Saint Nikon (November 17), who was experienced in the spiritual life and obedience, to be igumen. In tranquil solitude Saint Sergius fell asleep in the Lord on September 25, 1392. On the night before, the great saint of God summoned the brethren a final time to give them his final instruction: “Brethren, be attentive to yourselves. Have first the fear of God, purity of soul and unhypocritical love….”

Venerable Euphrosynē of Alexandria

Our venerable Mother Euphrosynē was born at the beginning of the fifth century in the city of Alexandria. She was the only child of illustrious and wealthy parents. When she was twelve years old, her mother reposed, and so the girl was raised by her Father, Paphnutios, who was a very devout Christian. He was in the habit of visiting a certain monastery, where the Igoumen was his Spiritual Father.

When Euphrosynē turned eighteen, her father wanted her to marry. He went to the monastery to obtain the Igoumen's blessing for his daughter's wedding. The Igoumen talked with her and gave her his blessing, but Saint Euphrosynē longed for the monastic life. One day, she gave away her possessions to the poor, and then she snuck out of the house.

The Saint had decided to enter a monastery in order to spend her life in solitude and prayer, but she was afraid that her father was apt to find find her in a women’s monastery. Therefore, she disguised herself as a man and entered the same men's monastery which she had visited with her father from her childhood, calling herself Smaragdos. The monks did not recognize Euphrosynē dressed in men’s clothes, and so they received her into the monastery. The monks were impressed by her spiritual struggles and by her willingness to serve everyone.

There in a solitary cell, Saint Euphrosynē spent 38 years in spiritual endeavors, fasting and prayer, thereby attaining a high level of spiritual accomplishment.

Paphnutios was deeply saddened by the loss of his beloved daughter; more than once, on the advice of his Spiritual Father, he spoke to the "monk" Smaragdos, disclosing his grief and receiving spiritual comfort. Before her death, Saint Euphrosynē revealed her secret to her grieving parent and insisted that no one but he should prepare her body for burial. After he buried his daughter, Paphnutios distributed all his wealth to the poor and to the monastery, and then he was tonsured. For ten years, until the time of his own repose, he labored in his daughter's cell.

By her life, Saint Euphrosynē reminds us that we must renounce "worldly passions and live soberly, uprightly, and devoutly" (Titus 2:12). That is, after rejecting the desires of this vain and sinful world, we ought to live abstemiously, with justice toward our fellow human beings, and with piety toward God.

Saint Paphnutios and his daughter Saint Euphrosynē are both commemorated today, and once again on February 15.

Venerable Euphrosynē of Suzdal

Saint Euphrosynē, Princess of Suzdal, was born in the year 1212. In holy Baptism she was given the name Theodoulia and she was the eldest daughter of the holy Martyr Michael, Great-prince of Chernigov (September 20). Prince Michael and his wife Theophania did not have children and they often visited the Kiev Caves monastery, where they prayed the Lord to grant them children. Princess Euphrosynē was their first daughter, sent from God in answer to their prayer. Three times the Most Holy Theotokos appeared to them and said that their prayer had been heard and that the Lord would grant them a daughter.

Theodulia was raised in deep faith and piety. The educated noble Theodore (September 20) had a large influence on her upbringing. The education and uncommon beauty of the princess attracted many.

The princess was betrothed to holy Prince Theodore (June 5), a brother of Saint Alexander Nevsky, but he died on the very day of his wedding. The princess withdrew to the Suzdal women’s monastery named in honor of the Placing of the Robe of the Mother of God, where she was tonsured with the name Euphrosynē, in honor of Saint Euphrosynē of Alexandria.

While still a young nun she fulfilled the monastic rule of life with an amazing zeal, and she remarkably surpassed the other residents of the monastery in her firmness of reason, spiritual insight and extreme abstinence. The Lord Himself visited the ascetic, commanding her to be vigilant and positive in her efforts. Saint Euphrosynē, to the very end of her life, kept the commandments of the Savior, and overcame countless temptations.

The extraordinary ascetic life of Saint Euphrosynē became known at Suzdal and beyond its borders. A multitude of people visited the monastery, in order to listen to the instructions of the nun Euphrosynē concerning love, prayer, obedience and humility.

Often after such talks, many accepted the monastic schema and began a more zealous service to God. The abbess of the monastery herself had recourse to the counsels of the nun. At the request of the ascetic, the sisters of the monastery were divided into two halves: virgins and widows. This facilitated the spiritual growth and strengthening of the sisters of the monastery in purity. After the death of the abbess, Saint Euphrosynē became Superior of the monastery.

The Lord foretold to the holy abbess her father’s martyrdom, and also the Mongol-Tatar invasion of Rus. In the year 1238, vast Tatar-Mongol hordes did actually descend upon the Russian realm. Destroying everything in their path, they came to Suzdal. The city was completely devastated and burned by them, and only the monastery of Saint Euphrosynē was spared through her prayers.

Saint Euphrosynē fell asleep in the Lord on September 25, 1250. At her grave believers were healed of various maladies. On September 18, 1698, with the blessing of Patriarch Adrian, Metropolitan Hilarion of Suzdal glorified the nun Euphrosynē as a saint.

First Translation of the relics of Saint Herman, Archbishop of Kazan

Today we commemorate the first translation of the relics of Saint Herman, Archbishop of Kazan, in 1595.

After his death on November 6, 1567 he was buried in the church of Saint Nicholas the Hospitable. In 1595, at the request of the inhabitants of Sviyazhsk, the saint’s relics were transferred from Moscow to the Sviyazhsk Dormition monastery.

Saint Herman is also commemorated on November 6 (his repose) and June 23 (second transfer of his relics in 1714).

Martyr Paphnutius and 546 companions in Egypt

The Holy Martyr Paphnutius hailed from Egypt and struggled in the desert. During the persecution against Christians under Diocletian (284-305), the governor Hadrian commanded that Saint Paphnutius be brought to him. The ascetic, not waiting for those sent to bring him, appeared before the governor, confessed his faith in Christ, and was subjected to torture.

The soldiers involved in his torture, Dionysius and Callimachus, seeing how the power of God preserved the martyr, believed in Christ the Savior themselves, for which they were then beheaded. Cast into prison after the tortures, Saint Paphnutius converted forty prisoners to the Faith. They were all burned alive.

After a while Saint Paphnutius was set free, and a Christian named Nestorius gladly took him in. He and all his family, after spiritual guidance, became steadfast in the Faith, and ultimately endured martyrdom. The saint strengthened many other Christians to confess our Lord Jesus Christ, and they all died as martyrs. Some were cut with swords, others were burned. There were 546 men in all.

Saint Paphnutius himself was thrown by the torturers into a river with a stone about his neck, but he miraculously floated to shore with the stone. Finally, they sent the holy martyr to the emperor Diocletian himself, who commanded him to be crucified on a date tree.

Saint Arsenius the Great, Catholicos of Georgia

Saint Arsenius the Great, a pupil and spiritual son of Gregory of Khandzta, was the youngest son of a certain aristocrat, Mirian, from Meskheti in southern Georgia.

On their way to Abkhazeti, Saint Gregory’s companions Theodore and Christopher stopped in Meskheti at the home of Arsenius’ family. Mirian and his wife, Kravaia, asked the monks to bless their children and, astonished at the fathers’ virtue, they entrusted their youngest son to their care.

Gregory of Khandzta later traveled to Abkhazeti to visit Theodore and Christopher, and on his way back to the monastery he brought with him the young Arsenius, the future catholicos of Georgia, and the youth Ephraim, the future wonderworker and bishop of Atsquri. The monks Theodore and Christopher journeyed with them as well.

The monks of Khandzta met the young men with grave displeasure, since the rules of the monastery forbade the presence of youths, but Saint Gregory assured the brothers that this was an exceptional circumstance in which God’s holy will would soon be revealed. Saint Gregory entrusted the young men’s upbringing to his companions and disciples, the hermits Theodore and Christopher.

When Arsenius had reached the appropriate age, his father Mirian bypassed the Church Council and had his son enthroned as catholicos of all Georgia by his own initiative (he was helped by a small group of bishops and laymen). Mirian’s interference in the affairs of the hierarchy was a blatant offense to the Church and the faithful.

A Church council assembled in Javakheti to decide on a way to address Mirian’s behavior. The circumstances were particularly difficult, since the leader of the council, Bishop Ephraim of Atsquri, had grown up with Saint Arsenius. But Church law upheld the judgment of the Church and the faithful, and it was decided to ask Arsenius to resign as catholicos. At that very moment, however, Saint Gregory arrived at the meeting and assured the holy fathers that Arsenius’s enthronement was a fulfillment of God’s holy will.

The disturbance was soon calmed and the love between Ephraim and Arsenius restored, and the catholicos blessed the old church at Khandzta. With his God-pleasing example and divine love Saint Arsenius enlightened the Georgian Church and the faithful until his final day on earth.

Saint Arsenius is also commemorated as a great historian and philologist. He is credited with the remarkable historical work On the Division of the Georgian and Armenian Churches. In this exposition Saint Arsenius logically proved that the Georgian Church had followed the path of true Christianity steadfastly throughout history, while the Armenian Church had strayed from the true path when it accepted the Monophysite heresy. To his pen also belong many remarkable hymns and Lives of Saints. His work The Life and Martyrdom of Abibos of Nekresi is particularly worthy of note.

Catholicos Arsenius the Great is known also as an active builder of churches. He constructed the Cathedral of Tkobi-Erda in the region of Ingushetia (near present-day Chechnya), in the Assa River Valley.

Saint Arsenius led the flock of the Georgian faithful for twenty-seven years and joyfully appeared before Christ in the year 887.

Commemoration of the Earthquake of 447

During the reign of Emperor Theodsios II (402-450) the city of Constantinople was shaken by earthquakes
for nearly four months. At that time several churches, houses, and the city's stone walls collapsed and were
destroyed. All the inhabitants of the city were terrified. Patriarch Proclus (November 20) organized a barefoot Cross Procession and solemnly prayed for God to protect them. While this was taking place, the tremors increased dramatically, and a young boy in the crowd was lifted up into Heaven by some invisible power, and the people, cried out, "Lord, have mercy."

After returning to earth, the boy told the people that he had heard the Angels glorifying God by singing "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us," and that a voice had commanded him to tell Patriarch Proclus that henceforth the people should supplicate God in this way, without adding anything to it. The Patriarch instructed the people to sing this hymn, whereupon the ground stopped shaking and the child reposed.

From that time the hymn was inserted into the Divine Liturgy, just as it was sung by the people during the earthquake, and as it is still sung up to the present day.

Daily Readings for Saturday, September 24, 2022

THE COMMEMORATION OF THE MIRACLE OF THE THEOTOKOS MYRTIDIOTISSIS IN KYTHYRA

NO FAST

The Commemoration of the Miracle of the Theotokos Myrtidiotissis in Kythyra, Thecla the Protomartyr & Equal to the Apostles, Silouan of Athos, Stephen the Martyr, The Most Holy Theotokos of Palianis, Coprios the Righteous, Juvenaly & Peter the Aleut, New Martyrs of Alaska

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

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

LUKE 10:38-42, 11:27-28

At that time, Jesus entered a village; and a woman called Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve you alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Synaxis of All Saints of Alaska

On the anniversary of the arrival of the Russian missionaries in Alaska (1794), we remember the New Martyrs Saint Peter the Aleut, Protomartyr of America, and Saint Juvenal.

Martyr Peter the Aleut

Saint Peter the Aleut is mentioned in the Life of Saint Herman of Alaska (December 13). Simeon Yanovsky (who ended his life as the schemamonk Sergius in the Saint Tikhon of Kaluga Monastery), has left the following account:

“On another occasion I was relating to him how the Spanish in California had imprisoned fourteen Aleuts, and how the Jesuits (actually Franciscans) were forcing all of them to accept the Catholic Faith. But the Aleuts would not agree under any circumstances, saying, ‘We are Christians.’ The Jesuits argued, ‘That’s not true, you are heretics and schismatics. If you do not agree to accept our faith then we will torture all of you to death.’ Then the Aleuts were placed in prisons two to a cell. That evening, the Jesuits came to the prison with lanterns and lighted candles. Again they tried to persuade two Aleuts in the cell to accept the Catholic Faith. ‘We are Christians,’ the Aleuts replied, ‘and we will not change our Faith.’ Then the Jesuits began to torture them, at first the one while his companion was a witness. They cut off one of the joints of his feet, and then the other joint. Then they cut the first joint on the fingers of his hands, and then the other joint. Then they cut off his feet, and his hands. The blood flowed, but the martyr endured all and firmly repeated one thing: ‘I am a Christian.’ He died in such suffering, due to a loss of blood. The Jesuit also promised to torture his comrade to death the next day.

“But that night an order was received from Monterey stating that the imprisoned Aleuts were to be released immediately, and sent there under escort. Therefore, in the morning all were sent to Monterey with the exception of the dead Aleut. This was related to me by a witness, the same Aleut who had escaped torture, and who was the friend of the martyred Aleut. I reported this incident to the authorities in Saint Petersburg. When I finished my story, Father Herman asked, ‘What was the name of the martyred Aleut?’ I answered, ‘Peter. I do not remember his family name.’ The Elder stood reverently before an icon, made the Sign of the Cross and said, ‘Holy New Martyr Peter, pray to God for us!’”

We know very little about Saint Peter, except that he was from Kodiak, and was arrested and put to death by the Spaniards in California because he refused to convert to Catholicism. The circumstances of his martyrdom recall the torture of Saint James the Persian (November 27).

Both in his sufferings and in his steadfast confession of the Faith, Saint Peter is the equal of the martyrs of old, and also of the New Martyrs who have shone forth in more recent times. Now he rejoices with them in the heavenly Kingdom, glorifying God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, throughout all ages.

Martyr Juvenal of Alaska

Saint Juvenal, the Protomartyr of America, was born in 1761 in Nerchinsk, Siberia. His secular name was John Feodorovich Hovorukhin, and he was trained as a mining engineer. In a letter to Abbot Nazarius of Valaam (December 13, 1819), Saint Herman says that Saint Juvenal “had been an assistant at our monastery and was a former officer.”

After his wife died in 1791, John entered a monastery at Saint Petersburg (Saint Herman’s Letter of December 13, 1819) and was tonsured with the name Juvenal. Three years later, he went to Alaska as a missionary.

During 1794, the hieromonks Juvenal and Macarius spent two months in the area around Kodiak teaching the inhabitants about Christ and baptizing them. They traveled in small boats of hide in all sorts of weather, dividing up the territory among themselves. Saint Herman tells of a conversation he heard one day as he walked with the hieromonks to a small hill on the south side of the harbor. They sat down facing the sea, and spoke of various things. Soon they began to discuss where each of them should go to preach. Aflame with zeal and eager to set out on their journey, a friendly argument ensued between Father Macarius and Father Juvenal. Father Macarius said he intended to go north to the Aleutian Islands, and then make his way to the Alaskan mainland, where the inhabitants had invited him to visit. The monks had a map of Captain Cook’s which indicated that some Russians were living near a certain river in that particular area, and Father Macarius hoped to find them.

Father Juvenal interrupted, saying that he believed that the Alaskan mainland was his territory. “I beg you to yield to me and not offend me in this,” he told Father Macarius, “since the ship is leaving for Yakutan. I shall begin preaching in the south, proceeding north along the ocean, cross the Kenai peninsula, then from the port there I shall cross to Alaska.”

Father Macarius became sorrowful and said, “No, Father. Do not restrict me in this way. You know the Aleutian chain of islands is joined to Alaska, therefore it belongs to me, and also the whole northern shore. As for you, the southern part of America is sufficient for your whole lifetime, if you please.”

As he listened to their apostolic fervor, Saint Herman says he “went from joy to rapture” (Letter to Abbot Nazarius, May 19, 1795).

In 1795, Father Juvenal baptized over 700 Chugatchi at Nushek, then he crossed Kenai Bay and baptized the local people there. In 1796, according to native oral tradition, Saint Juvenal came to the mouth of the Kuskokwim near the present village of Quinahgak, where he was killed by a hunting party. (There is a forged diary attributed to Ivan Petroff which gives a slanderous version of Father Juvenal’s death, and alleges that he was martyred at Lake Iliamna.)

The precise reason for Saint Juvenal’s murder by the natives is not known. However, they later told Saint Innocent something about his death. They said that Saint Juvenal did not try to defend himself when attacked, nor did he make any attempt to escape. After being struck from behind, he turned to face his attackers and begged them to spare the natives he had baptized.

The natives told Saint Innocent that after they had killed Saint Juvenal, he got up and followed them, urging them to repent. The fell upon him again and gave him a savage beating. Once more, he got to his feet and called them to repentance. This happened several times, then finally the natives hacked him to pieces. Thus, the zealous Hieromonk Juvenal became the first Orthodox Christian in America to receive the crown of martyrdom. His unnamed guide, possibly a Tanaina Indian convert, was also martyred at the same time.

It is said that a local shaman removed Saint Juvenal’s brass pectoral cross from his body and attempted to cast a spell. Unexpectedly, the shaman was lifted up off the ground. He made three more tries with the same result, then concluded that there was a greater power than his own at work here. Years later, a man showed up at the Nushagak Trading Post wearing a brass pectoral cross exactly like the one worn by Saint Juvenal.

A column of light arose from his holy relics and reached up to Heaven. It is not known how long this phenomenon continued.

Saint Juvenal, in his tireless evangelization of the native peoples of Alaska, served the Church more than all the other missionaries combined.

Protomartyr and Equal of the Apostles Thekla

The Holy Protomartyr and Equal of the Apostles Thekla was born in the city of Iconium. She was the daughter of rich and illustrious parents, and she was distinguished by extraordinary beauty. At eighteen years of age they betrothed her to an eminent youth. But after she heard the preaching of the holy Apostle Paul about the Savior, Saint Thekla with all her heart came to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and she steadfastly resolved not to enter into marriage, but rather to devote all her life to preaching the Gospel.

Saint Thekla’s mother was opposed to her daughter’s plans and insisted that she marry her betrothed. Saint Thekla’s fiancé also complained to the prefect of the city about the Apostle Paul, accusing him of turning his bride against him. The prefect locked up Saint Paul in prison.

During the night Saint Thekla secretly ran away from her house, and she bribed the prison guards, giving them all her gold ornaments, and so made her way into the prison to the prisoner. For three days she sat at the feet of the Apostle Paul, listening to his fatherly precepts. Thekla’s disappearance was discovered, and servants were sent out everywhere looking for her. Finally, they found her in the prison and brought her home by force.

At his trial Saint Paul was sentenced to banishment from the city. Again they urged Saint Thekla to consent to the marriage, but she would not change her mind. Neither the tears of her mother, nor her wrath, nor the threats of the prefect could separate Saint Thekla from her love for the Heavenly Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Her mother in a insane rage demanded from the judges a death sentence against her unyielding daughter, and Saint Thekla was sentenced to be burned. Without flinching, the holy martyr went into the fire and made the Sign of the Cross over herself. At this moment the Savior appeared to her, blessing her present deed, and inexpressible joy filled her holy soul.

The flames of the fire shot up high, but the martyr was surrounded by a light and the flames did not touch her. Thunder boomed, and a strong downpour of rain and hail extinguished the fire. The torturers scattered in fear. Saint Thekla, kept safe by the Lord, left the city and with the help of a certain Christian youth, searched for the Apostle Paul. The holy apostle and his companions, among whom was Saint Barnabas, were hidden in a cave not far from the city, praying fervently, that the Lord would strengthen Saint Thekla in her sufferings.

After this, Saint Thekla went with them preaching the Gospel in Antioch. In this city she was pursued by a certain dignitary named Alexander, who was captivated by her beauty. Saint Thekla refused his offer of marriage, and so she was condemned to death for being a Christian. Twice they set loose hungry wild animals upon her, but they would not touch the holy virgin. Instead, they lay down meekly and licked her feet.

The Providence of God preserved the holy martyr unharmed through all her torments. Finally, they tied her to two oxen and began to chase her with red-hot rods, but the strong cords broke asunder like cobwebs, and the oxen ran off, leaving Saint Thekla unharmed. The people began shouting, “Great is the God of the Christians!” The prefect himself became terrified, realizing that the holy martyr was being kept safe by the Almighty God, Whom she served. He then gave orders to set free the servant of God Thekla.

With the blessing of the Apostle Paul, Saint Thekla then settled in a desolate region of Isaurian Seleucia and dwelt there for many years, constantly preaching the Word of God and healing the sick through her prayer. Saint Thekla converted many pagans to Christ, and the Church appropriately names her as “Equal-to-the-Apostles.” Even a pagan priest, trying to assault her purity and punished for his impudence, was brought by her to holy Baptism. More than once the Enemy of the race of man tried to destroy Saint Thekla through people blinded by sin, but the power of God always preserved this faithful servant of Christ.

When Saint Thekla was already a ninety-year-old woman, pagan sorcerers became incensed at her for treating the sick for free. They were unable to comprehend that the saint was healing the sick by the power of the grace of Christ, and they presumed that the virgin-goddess Artemis was her special helper. Envious of Saint Thekla, they sent their followers to defile her. When they came near her, Saint Thekla cried out for help to Christ the Savior, and a rock split open and hid the holy virgin, the bride of Christ. Thus did Saint Thekla offer up her holy soul to the Lord.

The holy Church glorifies the Protomartyr Thekla as “the glory of women and guide for the suffering, opening up the way through every torment.” From of old many churches were dedicated to her, one of which was built at Constantinople by the holy Equal of the Apostles Constantine (May 21). The Protomartyr Thekla, a prayerful intercessor for ascetics, is also invoked during the tonsure of women into monasticism.

Venerable Nicander the Hermit of Pskov

Saint Nicander of Pskov (in Baptism Nikon) was born on 24 July 1507 into the peasant family of Philip and Anastasia in the village of Videlebo in the Pskov lands.

From childhood he dreamed of continuing the ascetic exploits of his fellow villager, Saint Euphrosynus of Spasoeleazar, the original Pskov wilderness-dweller (May 15). The first in Nikon’s family to accept monasticism was his older brother Arsenius. After the death of his father, the seventeen-year-old Nikon was able to convince his mother to dispose of the property and withdraw into a monastery, where she lived until her own end.

After visiting the monasteries of Pskov, and having venerated at the relics of Saint Euphrosynus and his disciple Saint Savva of Krypetsk (August 28), Nikon became firmly convinced of his calling to the solitary life.

In order to have the possibility of reading the Word of God, Nikon was employed as a worker for the Pskov resident Philip, who rewarded his ardor by sending him to study with an experienced teacher. Seeing the zeal of the youth, the Lord Himself directed him to the place of his ascetic effort. Intensely praying in one of the Pskov churches, he heard a voice from the altar commanding him to go to the wilderness place which the Lord would point out through His servant Theodore. The peasant Theodore led him off to the River Demyanka, between Pskov and Porkhov. Afterwards, both Philip and Theodore, who helped Saint Nicander attain his goal, were themselves to enter upon the path of monasticism, and were tonsured at the Krypetsk monastery with the names Philaret and Theodosius.

After several years of silence and severe ascetic deeds, emaciating his flesh, Nikon went to the monastery founded by Saint Savva of Krypetsk. The igumen, seeing his weakened body, would not agree to accept him at once, fearing that the difficulties of monastic life would be too much for him. Nikon fell down at the crypt of Saint Savva, and spoke to him as if to one alive, entreating him to take him into his monastery. The igumen relented and tonsured Nikon with the name Nicander.

Saint Nicander endured many temptations and woes on the path of asceticism. Blessed Nicholas (February 28) while still at Pskov predicted Saint Nicander’s “wilderness sufferings.” Through the prayers of all the Pskov Saints and Saint Alexander of Svir (August 30 and April 17), who twice appeared to him, guiding and strengthening him, and with the help of the grace of God, he overcame all the manifold snares of the Evil One.

By the power of prayer the monk conquered the weakness of flesh, human failings and diabolical apparitions. Once, robbers nearly killed him, running off with the hermit’s sole, very precious possessions, his books and icons. Through the prayers of the saint, two of them, taking fright at the sudden death of one of their comrades, repented of their wicked deeds and received forgiveness from the Elder.

Saint Nicander did not long live at the Krypetsk monastery, and he obtained a blessing to return to his own wilderness. Later, he came to live at the Krypetsk monastery once again, where he fulfilled the obediences of ecclesiarch and cellarer, and then he went into the wilderness again and lived there in fasting and prayer, meditating on the Word the God.

Once a year, during Great Lent, Saint Nicander came to the Damianov monastery, where he made his confession and received the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Eight years before his death he received the Great Schema. Many people began to come to the monk “for benefit,” since in the words of Saint John of the Ladder, “monastic life is a light for all mankind.” Believers turned to Saint Nicander for prayerful help, since the Lord had bestown on him many gifts of grace.

The wilderness-dweller had regard for all the needs of the visitors and even built lodging for them, “the guest-house at the oak,” for which he provided heat. The monk did not permit himself to show off his spiritual gifts. Going secretly to his cell, people always heard him praying with bitter tears. When he noticed there were people nearby, he immediately began to pray, concealing from them the gift of tears that he had received.

Saint Nicander to the end of his life remained a wilderness-dweller, but he gave final instructions that after his death the place of his ascetic efforts should not be forsaken, promising his protection to the settlers of a future monastery. The saint gave final directions to the deacon Peter of the Porkhov women’s monastery to build a church at his grave and transfer there the icon of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos from the Tishanka church cemetery.

He foresaw his own death, predicting that he would die when enemies invaded the fatherland, and foretelling this imminent assault. On September 24, 1581, during an invasion by the army of the Polish king Stephen Bathory, a certain peasant found the monk dead. He lay on his cot with his hands crossed on his chest. From Pskov came clergy and people who revered the monk, and among whom was also the deacon Peter, and they performed the rite of Christian burial.

In 1584 at the place of Saint Nicander’s ascetic deeds, sanctified by almost half a century of prayer, a monastery was built, which they began to call the Nikandrov wilderness-monastery. The builder of this monastery was Saint Isaiah, who had been healed through prayer to the saint.

The glorification of Saint Nicander occurred under Patriarch Joachim in 1696, and the feastdays in his memory were established for September 24, the day of his repose, and on the temple feast of the monastery, the Annunciation to the Most Holy Theotokos. During a reconstruction of the monastery cathedral church the relics of Saint Nicander were discovered, concealed in a wall. June 29 is celebrated as the day of the uncovering of his holy relics. At present, strong bonds of prayer connect believers with Saint Nicander, who is deeply venerated in the Pskov area.

Monastic Martyr Galacteon of Vologda

Monkmartyr Galacteon of Vologda: Fearing the wrath of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, kinsmen of the disgraced prince Ivan Ivanovich Belsky secretly brought his seven-year-old son Gabriel to the city of Staritsa. In the years of his growing up, and seeing the malice of the Tsar towards his family, the young prince withdrew to Vologda and lived with a shoemaker, from whom he learned the cobbler’s craft. His marriage did not last long, for his wife soon died, leaving Prince Gabriel to raise his infant daughter.

The adversities of his earthly life strengthened in him the intent to devote himself to God. Having sought out a place at the River Sodima, he dug a pit and made his cell near a church named for the Most Holy Trinity. After being tonsured with the name Galacteon, he began to labor in fasting and prayer. The ascetic did not give up his cobbler’s trade, and the money which he received from the work was divided into three portions. One part he dedicated to God, another portion he gave to the poor, and the third part he kept for his own needs.

Advancing in spiritual life, Saint Galacteon secluded himself in his cell, chaining himself to the wall. God-fearing Christians gave him food through a small window. The ascetic rested little, on his knees and holding on to the chain, and he ate only dry bread and water. In the cell of Saint Galacteon was nothing but the old matting with which he covered himself.

People soon began to come to the hermit for spiritual guidance. He received both the rich and the poor, and his words were filled with spiritual power. He consoled the grieving and brought the proud to their senses. In prayer Saint Galacteon achieved a special spiritual grace.

Once, when the Vologda region had gone a long time without rain, Bishop Anthony came to the church of the Holy Trinity with a church procession and sent a request to the hermit to come and pray with everyone for deliverance from the common woe. Saint Galacteon obediently left his cell and prayed in the church, and the Lord sent abundant rain upon the parched earth.

The ascetic had a revelation from God about impending misfortunes of Vologda. He emerged from his cell in his chains, went to an earthen hut and declared, “Our sins have brought the Poles and Lithuanians upon us. Let there be fasting and prayer, and preparations to build a temple in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God of the Sign (November 27), so that the Heavenly Queen might deliver Vologda from the wrath of God as She did before Novgorod.”

One of those present, Nechai Proskurov, said, “He is concerned not for us, but for himself; he only wants to have a church near him. And what will become of the temple when you die, Elder?”

Saint Galacteon answered gravely, “Wrath is approaching Vologda. As for me, there at my place God is glorified, and there also a monastery will be built.” He also said that the Trinity church built by Nechai would be burned and the house of Nechai laid waste. Passing the church dedicated to Saint Demetrius of Priluki (February 11), he said, “The Wonderworker Demetrius has prayed to the Savior for the city, but they insult him. Around his church they set up shops and hawk their wares. This church will be destroyed.”

The prophecy of the righteous one was soon fulfilled. In September 1612 the Polish and Lithuanians stormed into Vologda, and they killed many of the inhabitants. They defiled and plundered the churches of God, and they set afire the city and its surroundings. As Saint Galacteon predicted, the house and church built by Nechai were burned, as was also the city church named for Saint Demetrius.

Saint Galacteon was murdered by the invaders on September 24, 1612. Pious Christians buried the body of hosiomartyr in his cell. Over the place of his burial miraculous healings began to occur. In the time of Bishop Barlaam (1627-1645), a church was built in honor of the Sign Icon of the Mother of God over the relics of the hosiomartyr Galacteon, and a monastery was founded. With the blessing of Archbishop Marcellus (1645-1663), a cathedral church was built at the monastery in honor of the Holy Spirit, and the monastery took its name from this church.

Venerable Copres of Palestine

Saint Copres was found as a newborn infant by monks of the monastery of Saint Theodosius in Palestine. He lay upon a dung-hill (in Greek “kopria”), where his mother left him during an invasion of the Hagarenes (Moslems).

The monks took the infant, named him Copres, fed him goat’s milk and raised him in their monastery. Saint Copres later accepted monastic tonsure and spent his whole life in his monastery. Having attained to an high degree of virtue and the gift of wonderworking, Saint Copres died peacefully the age of ninety.

Venerable Abramius, Abbot of Mirozh, Pskov

Saint Abramius (Abraham) of Mirozh was the builder and first igumen of the Pskov Savior-Transfiguration monastery on the banks of the River Velika, where it meets the River Mirozha. The Mirozh monastery was founded in about the year 1156, in the time of Svyatopolk Mstislavich, by both Saint Abramius and by Saint Niphon, Bishop of Novgorod (April 8), a brother of the holy Prince Vsevolod-Gabriel (February 11).

This monastery, the most ancient in Pskov, was the first seed of monasticism transported to the Pskov soil from Kiev. On a chalice of Saint Niphon is inscribed: "Holy Bishop Niphon … enthroned, he built many holy monasteries and churches with the approval of Prince Vsevolod of Pskov, and upon the death of Prince Vsevolod he came … to Pskov and constructed … the church of the Transfiguration of the Lord, and a monastery of fame and beauty, and gathered brethren and appointed an igumen."

Toward the end of the nineteenth century, when the Transfiguration cathedral was remodeled, beautiful frescoes of the twelfth century were discovered, and which now receive universal acclaim. Saint Niphon also built a similar church at Ladoga, dedicated to Saint Clement of Rome, but only the foundations have been preserved.

There is little information about the life of Saint Abramius, because the monastery was inside the city walls and it was often laid waste, and served as quarters for enemy soldiers.

Saint Abramius reposed on September 24, 1158. His relics lie beneath a crypt of the cathedral church, dedicated to the Transfiguration of the Lord, in the monastery he built.

Saint Vladislav of Serbia

Holy King Vladislav of Serbia was the son of holy King Stephen, and he reigned for seven years. He was noted for his virtue and charity towards the poor, the vagrant and the misfortunate, and he built a monastery at Milesheva, where he died in 1239 and was buried.

Venerable Dorothy of Kashin

Saint Dorothy of Kashin was born in 1549 of a noble family. No information has come down to us about her name before she became a nun, or the place of her birth. From the age of twelve, she lived in a climate of civil unrest, and the area was subject to rebellion, invasion, and plague.

Later, she was married to Theodore Ladygin, and they lived north of Moscow in the region where the city of Kashin is located. They had a son named Michael. Dorothy’s husband was killed at the beginning of the seventeenth century defending the city in a battle against Polish and Lithuanian invaders. She was close to sixty years old at that time.

After suffering this terrible loss, Saint Dorothy decided to leave the world and enter the women’s monastery of the Meeting of the Lord in Kashin. In this same monastery were the relics of Saint Anna of Kashin (October 2). The monastery had been sacked along with the city, so conditions there were anything but easy.

Saint Dorothy built a small cell in the ruins, and there she engaged in ascetical struggles. She found the Korsun icon of the Mother of God (October 9) in the debris and kept it in her cell. This icon later became known for its miracles.

She did not move to another monastery when she grew older, but preferred to remain in the semi-wilderness around Kashin. She tried to help those who were suffering during this time, encouraging and consoling them. Whatever money she had left after her husband’s death was used to restore the monastery, or to benefit the poor.

Saint Dorothy had once lived in luxury, but now she was reduced to poverty, enduring every affliction and sorrow with great patience. She prayed continually for her husband, her monastery, and the city of Kashin.

Once the danger had passed, the other nuns started coming back to the monastery. Saint Dorothy’s holy and virtuous life also inspired other women to become nuns. They all wanted her as their abbess, but Saint Dorothy refused this office, preferring to live as a humble nun. For the rest of her life, however, she was an example to the sisters.

In 1615, Saint Dorothy received the Great Schema and increased her spiritual efforts. She fell asleep in the Lord when she was about eighty on September 24, 1629 after living in the monastery for more than twenty years.

She was buried on the north side of the monastery church. A white memorial stone was placed over her grave, and the inscription was clearly legible until the twentieth century. Many miracles have taken place at her grave for those who entreat her with faith.

Venerable Silouan of Mount Athos

No information available at this time.

“Mirozh” Icon of the Mother of God

The Mirozh Icon appeared at the Mirozh monastery in the year 1198. But later, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, at a time when a plague raged at Pskov, an ancient report tells how tears flowed from both eyes of the icon. Many benefits and healings for man occured from the icon of the Mother of God.

The Mirozh Icon is an “Orans” (“Praying”) type. On either side of the Most Holy Theotokos stand the Pskov Saints: on the right, the holy Prince Dovmont-Timothy (May 20); on the left, his wife, the holy nun Martha, in the world named Maria Dimitrievna (November 8, 1300). Tsar Ivan Vasilievich took away the wonderworking icon from Pskov, but at the monastery an exact copy remained: the so-called “Great Panagia” from the Savior-Mirozh monastery.

On September 24, 1567, on the Feast of Saint Abraham at the Mirozh monastery there occurred a miraculous sign from an ancient icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. The celebration of the Mirozh Icon of the Sign was established in that same year, with the blessing of Archbishop Pimen of Novgorod and Pskov. A special service to this icon was composed, and was published in the 1666 MENAION.

Icon of the Mother of God “of the Myrtle Tree”

The Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Of the Myrtle Tree” (Myrtidiotissa) is in the monastery church of Myrtides on the Greek island of Kythera. It derives its name from the fact that it was found in a myrtle bush in the fourteenth century.

At that time, a shepherd was tending his sheep in a deserted valley which was filled with myrtle bushes. On September 24, forty days after the Dormition, the Mother of God appeared to him and told him to seek her icon which had been brought to that place many years before.

The shepherd fell to the ground in amazement, praying to the Theotokos. As soon as he got up and turned around, he saw the icon in the branches of a myrtle bush. Weeping for joy, he brought the icon home and told his friends and relatives about how he had found it.

When he awoke the next morning, the shepherd found the icon missing, and thought that perhaps someone had stolen it during the night. With a heavy heart, he led his sheep back to the spot where he had found the icon. To his amazement, he saw the icon once again in the branches of the myrtle bush. Glorifying God, the man took the icon home with him once more. The next morning, it had disappeared just as it had before. When this happened a third time, the shepherd realized that the Mother of God wanted her icon to remain where it had first appeared.

A small church was built to house the icon, and was called “Of the Myrtle Tree,” after the icon. The building was replaced and enlarged over the years, and many miracles took place there.

At the end of the sixteenth century Theodore Koumprianos, a descendant of the shepherd who found the icon, lived in the village of Kousoumari. He was a paralytic, and had an unshakeable faith that the Mother of God would heal him. Each year on September 24 he sent a family member to the church to light candles for him. One year he asked to be carried there by his family so that he might venerate the icon himself. During the Vigil, a great noise was heard coming from the direction of the sea. People fled the church, thinking that pirates were attacking. The paralytic remained in the church by himself, entreating the Mother of God for protection. Suddenly, he heard a voice from the icon telling him to get up and flee. He stood up, and then walked out of the church. Soon he was able to run and catch up with his relatives, who rejoiced upon seeing this miracle. As it turned out, there was no pirate attack, and the noise was regarded as a sign of God’s providence so that the paralytic could remain alone in church with the icon. Since that time the Koumprianos family has celebrated the icon’s Feast Day with a special reverence, since Theodore had been healed on that day.

Some of the other miracles associated with the Most Holy Theotokos and her icon “Of the Myrtle Tree” include protection of the island from the plague, ending the barrenness of a Jewish woman from Alexandria, saving people from death, and many other great wonders.

Pilgrims come to venerate the icon on the Feast of the Dormition (August 15), and also on the day of its discovery (September 24).

Venerable Simon of Serbia

No information available at this time.

Venerable David of Serbia

Saint David, a nephew of holy King Stephen, in the world had the name Demetrius. He built a monastery at Brodarova, at the River Lima, and there he received monastic tonsure with the name David and lived an ascetical life to the end of his days.

Holy King Stephen of Serbia

Holy King Stephen of Serbia was the first ruler of Serbia to be crowned as king. His father was Saint Stephen Nemanya (February 13). King Stephen died in 1224, accepting monastic tonsure with the name Simeon before his death. He was buried in the Studenitsa monastery.

Daily Readings for Friday, September 23, 2022

THE CONCEPTION OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST

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

The Conception of St. John the Baptist, Xanthippe & Polyxene the Righteous, John the New Martyr of Epiros, Nicholas the New Martyr

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 4:22-27

Brethren, Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in travail; for the children of the desolate one are many more than the children of her that is married.”

LUKE 1:5-25

At that time, in the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, it fell to him by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
And Zacharias was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.
And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth; for he will be great before the Lord, and he shall drink no wine nor strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared." And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." And the people were waiting for Zacharias, and they wondered at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained dumb. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home.
After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she hid herself, saying, "Thus the Lord has done to me in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

Conception of the Honorable Glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John

The Conception of the Venerable Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord, John: The holy Prophet Malachi prophesied that before the Messiah’s birth His Forerunner would appear, and would indicate His coming. The Jews therefore in awaiting the Messiah also awaited the appearance of His Forerunner.

In a city of the hills of Judea in the land of Palestine lived the righteous priest Saint Zachariah and his wife Saint Elizabeth, zealously observing the commandments of the Lord. The couple, however, had a misfortune: they remained childless in their old age, and they prayed unceasingly to God to grant them a child.

Once, when Saint Zachariah took his turn as priest at the Temple of Jerusalem, he went into the Sanctuary to offer incense. Going behind the veil of the Sanctuary, he beheld an angel of God standing at the right side of the altar of incense.

Saint Zachariah was astonished and halted in fear, but the angel said to him, “Fear not, Zachariah, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” But Zachariah did not believe the words of the heavenly messenger, and then the angel said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you the good news. Behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words….”

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and they were astonished that he had not come out from the Sanctuary after so long a time. And when he did come out, he was supposed to pronounce a blessing upon the people, but could not do so because he had been struck speechless. When Zachariah explained by gestures that he was unable to speak, the people then understood that he had experienced a vision. The prophecy of the Archangel was fulfilled, and Righteous Elizabeth was delivered from her barrenness, and gave birth to John, the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.

Saints Polyxene and Xanthippe, disciples of the Apostles, who died in Spain

The Monastic Women Xanthippe and Polyxene were sisters by birth and they lived in Spain in the time of the holy Apostles. They were among the first to hear the divine teaching of Christ the Savior from the holy Apostle Paul, when he preached in their land.

Saint Xanthippe and her husband Probus accepted Christianity, but Saint Polyxene was still a pagan when a certain man became entranced with her extraordinary beauty and forcibly carried her off to Greece on a ship. The Lord preserved her unharmed. On the voyage, the saint heard the preaching of the holy Apostle Peter and believed in Christ.

When she arrived in Greece, Saint Polyxene turned to the Christians for protection and defense and they hid her in the city of Patra in Achaia, where she formally accepted Christianity and was baptized by the holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called himself.

She became a witness to his miracles, and how he patiently and humbly endured his sufferings and death. She stood at the cross upon which they crucified the holy Apostle Andrew. After his martyric death, Saint Polyxene returned to Spain, where she and her older sister Xanthippe converted many pagans to Christ. Saint Polyxene toiled for about forty years preaching the Gospel in Spain. Saint Xanthippe shared in her sister’s work and preached in the populous city of Toledo.

Saint Polyxene reposed in about the year 109, having preserved her virginity to the end of her earthly life.

Virgin Martyr Irais (Rhais) of Alexandria

The Holy Martyr Iraida lived at Alexandria. Once, she went to a well to draw water and saw a ship at the shore. On board were a large number of men, women, clergy and monks, all fettered in chains for their confession of the Christian Faith.

Casting aside her water pitcher, the saint voluntarily joined the prisoners for Christ, and fetters were placed on her, too. When the ship arrived in the Egyptian city of Antipolis, Saint Iraida was the first to undergo fierce torments and was beheaded with the sword. After her, the other martyrs sealed their confession of faith in Christ with their blood.

Martyrs Andrew, John, and John’s children: Peter and Antonius, of Syracuse, martyred in Africa

The Holy Martyrs Andrew and John, and John’s children Peter and Antoninus, suffered in the ninth century in the time of the cruel African ruler Ibrahim. After the capture and destruction of the Sicilian city of Syracuse, Ibrahim captured and brought to Africa Saint John and his two children, Peter and Antoninus, whom he compelled to study the Arab language and sciences.

When the youths had grown, Prince Ibrahim was so fond of them for their wisdom and virtuous life, that he named Antoninus his kinsman, and he appointed Peter as his chief steward. Once he learned that the youths secretly confessed faith in Christ, however, Ibrahim flew into a furious rage, ordering them to be bound with iron shackles and beaten with knotted rods.

After prolonged scourging, they put Saint Antoninus on a donkey, tied him on with straps, then drove him through the city, beating and ridiculing him with abuse. The martyr endured all the insults and gave thanks to God. Saint Peter was thrown into prison after a fierce beating with the rods.

An order was issued to arrest John, the father of the holy martyrs. The brutal Ibrahim grabbed him by the neck with his left hand, and with his right he thrust a knife into his throat. They cast the dead body of the father, together with the bodies of his sons, into a large fire.

As for Saint Andrew, the torturer wore him down with hunger, and then ran him through with a spear in the chest. When the martyr prayerfully began to give thanks to God, Ibrahim ran him through a second time. As he lay dying from loss of blood, they beheaded the righteous martyr with a sword.

Icon of the Mother of God of Slovenka

The Slovenka Icon of the Mother of God manifested itself on September 23, 1635 at the village of Slovenka, Kostroma district. A certain hunter while hunting by chance discovered a small rickety church, overgrown with moss. He went inside and saw that all the church utensils had rotted with time, except for the altar icon of the Mother of God, which was perfectly unharmed. A monastery was afterwards built at this place.

Daily Readings for Thursday, September 22, 2022

THURSDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK

NO FAST

Phocas the Martyr, Bishop of Sinope, Phocas the Gardener, Martyrs Isaac, Martin, and the 26 Monk-martyrs of Zographou Monastery

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 4:16-22

At that time, Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.

Hieromartyr Phocas, Bishop of Sinope

Hieromartyr Phocas was born in the city of Sinope. From youth he led a virtuous Christian life, and in his adult years he became Bishop of Sinope. Saint Phocas converted many pagans to faith in Christ. At the time of a persecution against Christians under the emperor Trajan (98-117), the governor demanded that the saint renounce Christ. After fierce torture they enclosed Saint Phocas in a hot bath, where he died a martyr’s death in the year 117.

In the year 404, the relics of the saint were transferred to Constantinople (July 22).

The Hieromartyr Phocas is especially venerated as a defender against fires, and also as a helper of the drowning.

Prophet Jonah

The Holy Prophet Jonah lived in the eighth century before the birth of Christ and was a successor of the Prophet Elisha. The Book of the Prophet Jonah contains prophecies about the judgments on the Israelite nation, the sufferings of the Savior, the downfall of Jerusalem, and the end of the world. Besides the prophecies, the Book of Jonah relates how he was sent to the Ninevites to preach repentance (Jon. 3: 3-10).

Our Lord Jesus Christ, addressing the Scribes and the Pharisees who demanded a sign from Him, said that no sign would be given except for the sign of the Prophet Jonah, “As Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so also shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Mt. 12: 40). From these words the Lord shows clearly the symbolic meaning of the Book of the Prophet Jonah in relation to Christ’s death on the Cross, descent into Hell, and the Resurrection.

Reproaching the lack of penitence and recalcitrance of the Jews, the Lord said, “The Ninevites shall rise in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and one greater than Jonah is here” (Mt. 12: 41).

Saint Jonah the Presbyter, father of Saint Theophanes the Hymnographer and Theodore Graptus

Saint Jonah the Presbyter, Father of Saints Theophanes the Hymnographer (October 11) and Theodore the Branded (December 27), lived in Palestine in the late eighth to early ninth centuries.

Saint Jonah lived a virtuous and holy life. He had two sons who were glorified afterwards for their confession of Orthodoxy during the time of the Iconoclast heresy. After the death of his wife, Saint Jonah withdrew to the Lavra of Saint Savva the Sanctified (December 5), where both his sons earlier had been tonsured as monks. Saint Jonah dwelt at the Lavra until his death in the ninth century. The Lord bestowed upon His saint the gift of healing.

Venerable Jonah, Abbot of Yashezersk

Saint Jonah of Yash Lake was born in the village of Shoksha, sixteen versts from the monastery later established by him. The foundation of the monastery took place in 1580, when a wooden church was built in honor of the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos, and eight monks joined together with the monk to labor in asceticism.

Saint Jonah toiled with great concern over the building up of the monastery. Thus, for example, in order to ease the catching of fish, he himself dug a channel from Yash Lake to the nearby Lake Senno. He often rode horseback along the solitary paths of the forest in search of necessities for the monastery.

The ascetic made vessels from wood to be used for the divine services. In time the monk became known for his holy life far beyond the bounds of the monastery. Many pilgrims brought gifts, among which also were Church service books. The boundaries of the monastery expanded, and the number of churches increased. Profound love and reverence for the ascetic were demonstrated by Metropolitan Isidore of Novgorod, by Igumen James of the Solovki monastery, by Saint Irenarchus (July 17), and also by many other contemporaries.

Saint Jonah died at the end of the sixteenth century and was buried in the Annunciation monastery founded by him.

Martyr Phocas the Gardener of Sinope

The Holy Martyr Phocas the Gardener came from the city of Sinope on the southern shore of the Black Sea. Having a small garden, he lived modestly. He sold what he grew, and supported himself on the proceeds. He helped the needy and paid for the housing of vagrants. The Christian piety of the saint had a great influence on other people. Even pagans deferred to him with deep respect. Under his influence they often abandoned their error and accepted the Christian Faith.

The governor of the district, aware that Saint Phocas was spreading Christian teachings, gave orders to find and kill him. The saint himself accidentally came upon those sent after him, and without revealing his name, he courteously received them, fed them and prepared a place for them to spend the night.

At night he went into the garden, then prepared a grave and a place for his burial. He even made arrangements for all his possessions to be distributed to the poor after his death. In the morning Saint Phocas declared to the strangers that it was he for whom they were searching, and told them to fulfill the duty entrusted to them. The visitors were distressed, not wanting to kill the kindly saint. They felt honor bound to spare Saint Phocas, but he would not hear of it, and humbly bent his head beneath the sword.

They buried the holy Martyr Phocas in the grave that he himself had prepared in the garden. The place of his burial was glorified by miracles, and later a church was built there. An accurate account of the martyr’s death was collected by Asterius of Amasea (+ 410). The holy Martyr Phocas is especially venerated by seafarers, and he is called upon by those traveling by sea.

Saint Peter the Tax-Collector

Saint Peter, Former Tax-Collector, was the chief collector of taxes in Africa in the service of the emperor Justinian (527-565). He was a cruel and merciless man.

One day he threw a morsel of bread to a beggar who annoyed him by incessantly begging alms. In a vision Peter saw himself as dead and how the holy Angels weighed his deeds on the scale of the righteous judgment of God. On the side of good deeds nothing was placed except a morsel of bread, thrown at the beggar, but this prevented the opposite side from being pulled down by his vicious deeds.

Peter pondered the meaning of the dream, and thought that if one loaf of bread, thrown involuntarily, was of such help to him, then he might receive much more help for good deeds performed with compassion and from the heart. He repented and completely changed his life. He liberally distributed alms to the needy, and fed and clothed many.

One day, in a dream, Peter saw Jesus Christ. The Lord was dressed in clothes which the saint once gave to a beggar. Peter then distributed his substance to the poor and ordered his slave to sell him into slavery and to give the money to the poor. The slave reluctantly carried out the orders of his master.

For many years Saint Peter worked diligently and humbly for his master. One day he was recognized by tradesmen to whom he had been known earlier. They told the master who his servant was. Having overheard this conversation, the saint quickly fled from the city. In departing, he worked a miracle: the gatekeeper, a deaf-mute slave, was ordered by Saint Peter to open the gates in the name of Jesus Christ. He fulfilled the command, and at once received his hearing and speech. He rushed around everywhere to tell his master and added moreover, that when the saint commanded him to open the gates, fire came forth from his mouth touching his face, after which he began to hear and speak. Everyone went to look for Peter, but the search proved in vain. The saint hid and remained hidden until his death.

The life of Saint Peter was passed along by Saint John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria (November 12), who in turn knew it from a man personally acquainted with the saint.

Saint Peter is commemorated on January 20 according to Greek usage.

Venerable Macarius, Wonderworker of Zhabynka and Belev

No information available at this time.

Synaxis of the Saints of Tula

Saint Alexander Nevsky, Great Prince August 30 (translation of relics in 1724), November 22 (his burial in 1263)

Saint Alexander, soldier, schemamonk, disciple of Saint Sergius. September 7 (+1390)

Saint Alexander, soldier, schemamonk, disciple of Saint Sergius. September 7 (+1380)

Saint Boris (Roman in Baptism), Prince, Passion-Bearer. May 2 (transfer of relics in 1072), July 24 (commemorated with Saint Gleb) (+1015)

Saint Gleb (David in Baptism), Prince, Passion-Bearer. May 2 (transfer of relics in 1115), July 24 (commemorated with Saint Boris), September 5 (martyrdom) (+1015)

Saint Demetrius Donskoy, Great Prince. May 19 (+1389)

Saint Igor (George in Baptism, Gabriel in monasticism), Great Prince. June 5 (transfer of relics in 1150), September 19 (+1147)

Saint John I Kalita, Great Prince. (+ 1340, date unknown)

Saint Kushka, Hieromonk of the Kiev Near Caves, hieromartyr. (+ after 1114)

Saint Macarius, abbot of Zhabyn, hieroschemamonk, wonderworker. January 22 (+1623)

Blessed Matrona the Blind of Moscow. April 19 (+1952)

Saint Michael of Chernigov, Great Prince, martyr, wonderworker. February 14 (transfer of relics in 1578), September 20 (martyrdom +1245)

Saint Nikḗtas, Bishop of Belev, hieromartyr (+1938) September 3 (glorification)

Saint Nicola Sviatosha, monk, prince, wonderworker. October 14 (+1143)

Saint Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia. May 9 (transfer of relics), December 6 (repose), July 29 (birth).

Saint Nikon, martyr, disciple of Saint Kushka. August 27 (+ after 1114)

Saint Onesimus, Bishop of Tula, New Martyr. February 14 (+1937), September 3 (glorification)

Saint Peter (Pavlushov), hieromartyr November 10, September 3 (glorification)

Saint Pimen, Archbishop of Novgorod (+ 1571, no date)

Saint Theoctistus, Bishop of Chernigov, August 5 (+1123)

Venerable Cosmas of Zographou Monastery, Mount Athos

Saint Cosmas the Anchorite of Zographou Monastery was born into an aristocratic family in Bulgaria toward the end of the XVIII century, and was proficient in Greek as well as Bulgarian. When his parents desired him to get married, he left their home surreptitiously and headed for the far-famed Holy Mountain: Mount Athos. Along the way, the devil tried to thwart the young man's intentions, vexing him with a vision of the infinite abyss of the sea which surrounds the Holy Mountain, but the Saint was able to overcome this demonic temptation with prayer.

Arriving at Zographou Monastery, Saint Cosmas became a novice for a short time, and then he received the monastic tonsure, and was appointed to the position of Ecclesiarch. On the Feast of the Annunciation, Saint Cosmas was astonished to see the Most Holy Theotokos serving the monks of Vatopaidi Monastery, both during the Church Services and in the trapeza.

Because of his virtues, the Superior had the Saint ordained as a deacon, and then as a priest, which inspired him to even greater efforts. Zealous for his salvation, Saint Cosmas prayed to the Mother of God, and was granted a sign of her special favor. He heard her voice emanating from her icon, asking her Son, "How shall Cosmas be saved?" The Lord replied, "He must leave the monastery and live in solitude."

After obtaining the Superior's blessing, Saint Cosmas withdrew into the wilderness, where he lived in a cave. There he confessed those who came to him, and was found worthy of the gift of clairvoyance, working miracles, seeing divine visions, and even predicting the time of his death.

Not long before that day, Christ appeared to Saint Cosmas, informing him that before his departure to the Kingdom of Heaven, Satan and his demonic hosts would attack him and beat him. As he had done at the start of the venerable one's ascetic life, the Enemy of mankind tried once again to turn Saint Cosmas away from his intended path; thus the final days before his death were a grievous trial for him. Prepared to face these trials by the words of the Savior, the Saint endured the fearful demonic assaults. After three days of being severely beaten by the demons, he received the Immaculate Mysteries of Christ. With words of praise on his lips, he departed peacefully to the Lord.

God, Who glorifies those who glorify Him, also glorified Saint Cosmas at the time of his death on September 22, 1323. As he was buried, a multitude of beasts and birds flocked to his cave, as if they sensed the sorrow of the entire Holy Mountain. When the Saint's body was placed in the grave and they began to cover it with dirt, each of the mute creatures uttered a mournful cry, and then returned to the wilderness. In this manner, they paid their final respects to Saint Cosmas.

Forty days later, when the brethren opened the saint’s tomb after the All-night Vigil in order to move his relics to the monastery with honor, they were not to be found. The Lord had hidden them in a miraculous way.

Saint Cosmas is also commemorated on the second Sunday after Pentecost, the Synaxis of All Saints of Mount Athos.

"Hearer" Icon of the Mother of God

This wonderworking Icon is at Zographou Monastery on Mount Athos. The name of the Hearer Icon of the Mother of God (Παναγία Επακούουσα, or Услы́шательница in Russian) is explained by the following miraculous sign.

The venerable Cosmas was living a life of asceticism at Zographou Monastery in the XIV century. When he was still a young man, he visited Vatopaidi Monastery on the Feast of the Annunciation, which is that Monastery's Feast Day. There in the church during the service, and later in the trapeza, he saw a beautiful, majestic woman. Saint Cosmas was astonished and troubled to see her there on Mount Athos, because no woman is permitted to set foot on the Holy Mountain, so he was unable to understand why the monks allowed her to be there. While he was pondering these things, he returned to his Elder, who noticed his disciple's confusion and asked him, "Why are you so sad and pensive?"

Cosmas told him what he had seen at Vatopaidi Monastery, and revealed all of his doubts and thoughts about seeing a woman there with the monks.

"What sort of woman was she," the Elder asked, "and how was she dressed?"

Cosmas described her appearance in detail. Then, with a reproachful sigh, the Elder rebuked his disciple: "Didn't you bother to find out what sort of woman was at the monastery? This was not an ordinary mortal woman; she is the Queen of our Holy Mountain and of all creation herself!"

For some time after this, the venerable Cosmas remained alone in the monastery church, praying fervently before an Icon of the Mother of God. He exclaimed, "Most Holy Theotokos, pray that your Son and God may set me on the path of salvation!"

As soon as he uttered these words, he heard the voice of the Mother of God coming from the Icon and saying, "My Son and my God, teach Your servant how he may be saved."

At once the Lord replied, "Let him leave the monastery to live in solitude and in stillness" (ησυχία).1

With the Superior's blessing, Saint Cosmas left his monastery and went into the wilderness, where he dug a cave out of a cliff, spending the rest of his life there in continuous asceticism. He made great progress in the hesychastic life, and so he was found worthy of the gifts of clairvoyance, working miracles, seeing divine visions, and even predicting the time of his death, which occurred on September 22, 1323.

The Icon before which Saint Cosmas prayed, and from which he heard the voice of the Mother of God, was named "The Hearer," because she heard his prayer. It is still in the katholikon of Zographou Monastery, in the altar, on the eastern wall, which extends into the diakonikon.2


1 In the Lives of the Saints, and the writings of the Holy Fathers, stillness, or quiet, is essential for mental prayer, or prayer of the heart. In order to be effective, the Jesus Prayer requires the greatest inner and outer quiet or stillness. It is also called pure prayer because it presupposes a mind and heart free from fantasies, passions, and thoughts.

2 The διακονικόν is a room on the south side of a church, behind the iconostasis, where vestments, books, charcoal, etc. are stored. There is a sink, towels, and other necessary items used in the services.

Daily Readings for Wednesday, September 21, 2022

WEDNESDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK

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

Apodosis of the Elevation of the Venerable and Life-Giving Cross, Quadratus the Apostle, Jonah the Prophet, Isaakios & Meletios, Bishops of Cyprus

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 3:15-22

Brethren, to give a human example: no one annuls even a man’s covenant, or adds to it, once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to your offsprings, ” referring to many; but, referring to one, “And to your offspring, ” which is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one; but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not; for if a law had been given which could make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

LUKE 4:1-15

At that time Jesus returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone.'" And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I will give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours." And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'
And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you, ' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" And Jesus answered him, "It is said, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

Leavetaking of the Elevation of the Cross

Because of the Leavetaking of the Elevation of the Cross, the service to Saint Quadratus of the Seventy is sung on September 22.

At the end of Liturgy, the priest comes out from the altar with a censer, preceded by a deacon with a candle. Going to the center of the church, he censes three times around the Cross. He takes the tray with the Cross and places it on his head to carry it into the altar. The deacon goes before him, censing the Cross. After placing the Cross on the altar, the priest censes the four sides of the Holy Table.

Apostle Quadratus of the Seventy

Saint Quadratus, Apostle of the Seventy preached the Word of God at Athens and at Magnesia (eastern peninsula of Thessaly), and was Bishop of Athens. His biographer called him “a morning star” among the clouds of paganism. He converted many pagans to the true faith in Christ the Savior, and his preaching aroused the hatred of the pagans. Once, an angry mob fell upon the saint to pelt him with stones. Preserved by God, Saint Quadratus remained alive, and they threw him into prison, where he died of starvation. His holy body was buried in Magnesia.

In the year 126, Saint Quadratus wrote an Apologia in defence of Christianity. Presented to the emperor Hadrian (117-138), the Apologia affected the persecution of Christians, since the emperor issued a decree saying that no one should be convicted without just cause. This Apologia was known to the historian Eusebius in the fourth century. At the present time, only part of this Apologia survives, quoted by Eusebius: “The deeds of our Savior were always witnessed, because they were true. His healings and raising people from the dead were visible not only when they were healed and raised, but always. They lived not only during the existence of the Savior upon the earth, but they also remained alive long after His departure. Some, indeed, have survived to our own time.”

Saint Quadratus is also commemorated on January 4.

Uncovering of the relics of Saint Demetrius (Dmitri), Metropolitan of Rostov

In 1702, Saint Demetrios, Metropolitan of Rostov, arrived at the Rostov cathedral and also visited the monastery of Saint James, Bishop of Rostov (November 27 and May 23).

He served the Divine Liturgy at the cathedral church of the Conception of the Most Holy Theotokos, after which he indicated to those present the site of his future burial on the right side of the temple. “Behold my resting place,” he said, “here I will settle for eternity.” Saint Demetrios reposed on October 28, 1709.

Contrary to the Saint's wishes, which he had expressed in his will, the clergy and people of Rostov asked the locum tenens of the patriarchal throne, Metropolitan Stephen Yavorsky of Ryazan, who had come for the funeral, to conduct the burial at the city's cathedral church.

Metropolitan Stephen insisted on burying the body of his deceased friend beside Saint Joasaph, who was Saint Demetrios's predecessor. However, a grave was not prepared until the arrival of Metropolitan Stephen, even though about a month had passed since the Saint's death.

Due to the urgent departure of Metropolitan Stephen from Rostov, a hastily constructed wooden frame was placed into the grave, in which the body of the Saint was buried on November 25. This circumstance, foreseen by the Providence of God, led to a quick uncovering of the relics.

In 1752 repairs were being made in the cathedral church of the monastery, and on September 21, the incorrupt body of Saint Demetrios was discovered. The place of burial had been affected by dampness, the oaken coffin and the writing on it were decayed, but the body of the Saint, and even his omophorion, sakkos, mitre and silken prayer rope were preserved undamaged.

After the discovery of his relics, Saint Demetrios began to heal many illnesses, and performed many miracles. When the Holy Synod was informed of these facts, it sent a Commitee: Metropolitan Sylvester of Suzdal and Archimandrite Gabriel of Simonov Monastery, to examine the relics of Bishop Demetrios and to verify the miraculous cures.

Upon the Committee's recommendation, a decree was issued by the Holy Synod on April 29, 1757 numbering Saint Demetrios, Metropolitan of Rostov among the saints, and designating the dates of his commemoration as October 28 (the day of his repose) and September 21 (the uncovering of his relics).

The Church of Russia also commemorates the Hierarchs Demetrios of Rostov, Metrophanes and Tikhon of Voronezh on July 19.

Venerable Daniel, Abbot of Shuzhgorsk, Novgorod

Saint Daniel of Shugh Hill was born in the Moscow dominion in the sixteenth century. He performed his ascetic labors in northern Rus, where he became a monk at the Komel monastery, founded by Saint Cornelius of Komel in 1498.

Saint Daniel left the monastery and continued a solitary ascetic life in the unpopulated and forested White Lake hinterland, on a mountain named Shugh Hill. Here the holy ascetic founded his monastery in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Saint Daniel was buried at a temple in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord at the monastery that he founded. In 1764, the monastery was turned into a parish.

Venerable Joseph of Zaonikiev Monastery, Vologda

Saint Joseph of Zaonikiev, was named Hilarion in the world, a pious peasant from the village of Obukhovo Kubensk in the region of the Vologda gubernia. For a long time he suffered a disease of the eyes and he fervently prayed for the help of the Lord, to the Most Holy Theotokos, and to the Saints, in particular the holy Unmercenaries Cosmas and Damian.

His prayer was heard, and in 1588, by a revelation of Saint Cosmas, Hilarion went into the forest into a swampy place, to an icon of the Mother of God, from which he received healing. In gratitude the monk cleared a forest thicket at the place of the appearance of the wonderworking icon and built a chapel, in which he placed the icon. He himself settled close by, taking the monastic schema with the name of Joseph.

Afterwards, with the blessing of Saint Anthony, Bishop of Vologda, on the place of Joseph’s ascetic exploits the Zaonikiev monastery emerged, so named from the brigand Anikios who once dwelt in this forest. When the monastery expanded and the number of monks grew, upon the advice of Saint Joseph, Anthony was chosen as igumen. Joseph did not accept the leadership himself out of humility. Since he concealed his own strict exploits from the others, he was perceived as a fool-for-Christ. He stood on his feet at prayer in his chapel, and he went about barefoot in the fierce cold.

Saint Joseph reposed on September 21, 1612 at age 83, and was buried in the monastery founded by him.

Hieromartyr Hypatius, Bishop of Ephesus, and his Presbyter, Andrew

Hieromartyr Hypatius, Bishop of Ephesus, and the Priest Andrew suffered in the eighth century under the iconoclast emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-741). As young men, they studied together in one of the monasteries. Saint Hypatius accepted monasticism, and Saint Andrew became a clergyman and zealously instructed people in the Christian Faith.

When the emperor Leo the Isaurian began to persecute those who venerated holy icons, and the holy icons were thrown out of the churches, to be trampled underfoot and burned, Saints Hypatius and Andrew rose up in defence of icon veneration, urging their flock to maintain faithfulness to Orthodoxy.

The emperor, wanting to persuade the saints, summoned them to him and arranged a debate about the veneration of icons, at which Saints Hypatius and Andrew were consistently able to defend the Orthodox veneration of icons.

They threw the martyrs into prison and for a long time they held them there, hoping that this would force the saints to renounce their convictions, but the saints remained steadfast. Then the emperor gave orders to torture the martyrs. They beat them, flayed the skin and hair from their heads, smeared their beards with tar and set it afire, and they burned holy icons upon the heads of the martyrs.

The saints bore all their tortures patiently and remained alive. The emperor gave orders to drag the saints through the city to be mocked by the people, and only after this to kill them. They threw the bodies of Saints Hypatius and Andrew to be eaten by dogs, but believers reverently gave them burial.

Saint Isaac of Cyprus

No information available at this time.

Saint Meletius, Bishop of Cyprus

No information available at this time.

Martyr Eusebius of Phoenicia

No information available at this time.

Martyr Priscus of Phrygia

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26 Monastic Martyrs of Zographou, Mount Athos

In July of 1274, the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII accepted a union with the Roman Church at Lyons, France. Faced with dangers from Charles of Anjou, the Ottoman Turks, and other enemies, the emperor found such an alliance with Rome expedient. The Union of Lyons required the Orthodox to recognize the authority of the Pope, the use of the Filioque in the Creed, and the use of azymes (unleavened bread) in the Liturgy. Patriarch Joseph was deposed because he would not agree to these conditions. The monastic clergy and many of the laity, both at home and in other Orthodox countries, vigorously opposed the Union, denouncing the emperor for his political schemes and for his betrayal of Orthodoxy.

On January 9, 1275 a Liturgy was celebrated in Constantinople in which the Pope was commemorated as “Gregory, the chief pontiff of the Apostolic Church, and Ecumenical Pope.” The emperor’s sister remarked, “It is better that my brother’s empire should perish, rather than the purity of the Orthodox Faith.” Recalling the infamous Crusade of 1204 when Latin crusaders sacked Constantinople, many of the people also preferred to submit to the infidels than to abandon the Orthodox Faith.

Twenty-six martyrs of Zographou Monastery on Mt. Athos were among those who were persecuted by Emperor Michael VIII Paleologos (1261-1282) and Patriarch John Bekkos (1275-1282) because they would not obey the imperial command to recognize the Union of Lyons. They steadfastly kept the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, and fearlessly censured those who accepted Catholic doctrines.

When the authorities came to Mt. Athos to enforce the imperial policy, the monks of Zographou shut themselves up in their monastery. From the tower they reproached those in favor of the Union, calling them lawless men and heretics. The attackers set the monastery on fire and burned the twenty-six martyrs alive.

The names of the martyrs are: Igumen Thomas, the monks Barsanuphius, Cyril, Micah, Simon, Hilarion, James, Job, Cyprian, Savva, James, Martinian, Cosmas, Sergius, Menas, Joasaph, Joannicius, Paul, Anthony, Euthymius, Dometian, Parthenius, and four laymen who died with them.

These holy martyrs are also commemorated on October 10.

Venerable Cosmas the Bulgarian of Zographou, Mount Athos

Saint Cosmas was born in Bulgaria toward the end of the thirteenth century, and entered the Zographou Monastery when he was young.

Distinguishing himself by his ascetical life, he also acquired the virtues of humility and obedience. After a time, Saint Cosmas satisfied his superiors that he had attained a level of experience and perfection in monasticism which would permit him to live in solitude without danger. Saint John of the Ladder (Step 8:18) describes the type of person who should not be permitted to live alone following his own will, and the pitfalls of such a life for those who have not cleansed themselves of the passions. With the blessing of his spiritual Father, Saint Cosmas left the monastery in order to begin even more intense spiritual struggles.

Through humility, the God-pleasing ascetic attained the heights of virtue, regarding all of his own efforts as nothing, and ascribing whatever good he had accomplished to God’s mercy and grace. Therefore, he acquired spiritual gifts from the Lord, including the gift of prophecy.

Saint Cosmas of Zographou fell asleep in the Lord on Mount Athos in 1323.

Saint John of Georgia

Archimandrite John (Basil Maisuradze in the world) was born in the town of Tskhinvali in Samachablo around 1882. He was raised in a peasant family and taught to perform all kinds of handiwork. Basil was barely in his teens when he helped Fr. Spiridon (Ketiladze), the main priest at Betania Monastery, to restore the monastery between 1894 and 1896.

From his youth Basil was eager to enter the monastic life, and in 1903, according to God’s will, he moved to the Skete of Saint John the Theologian at Ivḗron Monastery on Mt. Athos. Among the brothers he was distinguished for his simplicity and obedience. He was tonsured a monk and named John in honor of Saint John the Theologian, whom he revered deeply and sought to emulate.

The monk John was soon ordained to the priesthood. Throughout his life the holy father dedicated himself to serving God and his brothers in Christ in hopes that his own life might be fruitful for them.

Fr. John remained on Mt. Athos for seventeen years. Then, due to the increasingly troubling circumstances there, he left the Holy Mountain with the other Georgian monks sometime between 1920 and 1921. He settled at Armazi Monastery outside of Mtskheta, where the Bolsheviks had left just one monk to labor in solitude. Once a band of armed Chekists broke into the monastery, led both Fr. John and the other monk away, and shot them in the back.

Believing them to be dead, they tossed them in a nearby gorge. A group of people later discovered Fr. John’s nearly lifeless body and brought it to Samtavro Monastery in Mtskheta. The other monk suffered only minor injuries and returned to the monastery on his own.

When his health had been restored, Fr. John went to Betania Monastery, where his first spiritual father was still laboring. He was appointed abbot shortly thereafter. Accustomed to hard work from his childhood, he skillfully administered the agricultural labors of the monastery. When visitors came to the monastery seeking advice or solace, Fr. John welcomed them warmly, spreading a festal meal before them. He enjoyed spending time with his guests, especially with children.

It is said that he always had candy or a special treat to give to the little ones. The children loved him so much that on the feast of Saint John the Theologian, while he was sprinkling the church with holy water, they skipped around him and tried to tousle his hair. The children’s parents were ashamed, but Fr. John cheerfully assured them that it was fitting to be so joyous on a feast day.

Truly Fr. John was endowed with a deep love for young people, and he was also blessed with the divine gifts of prophecy and wonderworking. Once a certain Irakli Ghudushauri, a student at Moscow Theological Seminary, visited him at the monastery. Fr. John received him with exceptional warmth, blessing him with tears of rejoicing. This student would later become Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II, the beloved shepherd who continues to lead the flock of the Georgian faithful to this very day.

Fr. John disciplined himself severely. He worked hard all day and slept on a single piece of wood. He would spend entire nights praying. Many wondered when he rested and where he had acquired such a seemingly infinite supply of energy.

Occasionally thieves would steal food or domestic animals from the monastery. But the monastery also had many protectors, even within the Soviet government. A group of Christians who worked for the government while secretly practicing their faith supported Fr. John and Fr. George (Mkheidze), explaining and justifying them to the government as “guardians of a national cultural monument.”

Many of the miracles performed by Fr. John are known to us today, though he was wary of receiving honor for his deeds. Frs. John and George healed the deaf, and many of the terminally ill were brought to them for healing. After spending several days in the monastery, the infirm would miraculously be cleansed of their diseases. Fr. John bore the heaviest workload in the monastery. He sympathized deeply with Fr. George, who was ailing physically and unfit for strenuous labor. But Fr. John departed this life before Fr. George. Fr. John became ill and reposed in 1957, at the age of seventy-five. He was buried at Betania Monastery.

Saint George (John) of Georgia

Fr. George (Mkheidze) was born in the village of Skhvava in the Racha region around 1877. He received a military education—a highly esteemed commodity among the Georgian aristocracy—but instead of pursuing a military career in defense of the Russian empire, he dedicated himself to Georgia’s national liberation movement. At one point the pious and learned George worked for Saint Ilia the Righteous as his personal secretary. He often met Saint Ilia’s spiritual father, the holy hierarch Alexandre (Okropiridze), and the holy hieromartyr Nazar (Lezhava), and he was acquainted with other important spiritual leaders of the time as well.

Desiring to sacrifice his life to God, George was tonsured into monasticism by the holy hieromartyr Nazar. His rare character combined a nobleman’s deportment with a monk’s humble asceticism. Fr. George was ordained a priest and soon after elevated to the rank of archimandrite.

Filled with divine love and patriotic sentiment, the holy father willingly endured the heavy burdens and spiritual tribulations afflicting his country at that time.

In 1924, while Fr. George was laboring at Khirsa Monastery in Kakheti in eastern Georgia, an armed Chekist mob broke into the monastery. The perpetrators beat him, cut off his hair, shaved his beard, and threatened to take his life. He sought refuge with his family, but to no avail—his brothers, who were atheists, shaved off his beard while he was sleeping. (One of Fr. George’s brothers later committed suicide, and the other, together with his wife, was shot to death by the Chekists.) In the same year, Fr. George visited Betania Monastery and was introduced to Fr. John (Maisuradze), with whom he would labor for the remainder of his life.

Fr. George’s health was poor, and he was able to perform only the lightest of tasks around the monastery. He tended the vegetable garden and took responsibility for raising the bees. He was extremely generous. At times he would give all the monastery’s food to the needy, assuring Fr. John that God Himself would provide their daily bread.

Tall, thin, and with an upright posture, Fr. George was strict in both appearance and demeanor. He spoke very little with other people, and children did not play with him as they did with Fr. John. Knowing his character, they tried to please him by reciting prayers and behaving themselves. Fr. George did not like to leave the monastery, but it was often necessary for him to travel to Tbilisi to visit his spiritual children— among whom were many secret Christians who worked for the government.

Fr. George was endowed with the gifts of prophecy and healing, but he was careful to hide them. When constrained to reveal them, he would pass them off as though they were nothing extraordinary. Once a certain pilgrim arrived at the monastery and was surprised to discover that Fr. George knew him by name. Sensing his great amazement, Fr. George told the pilgrim that he had attended his baptism some thirty years earlier, thus concealing his God-given gift. Fr. George knew in advance when his nephew was bringing his sisters, whom he had not seen in forty-eight years, to visit him at the monastery during Great Lent.

Enlightened with this foreknowledge, Fr. George prepared fish and a festal meal in honor of the occasion.

The prayers of Fr. George and Fr. John healed the former’s nephew, who was afflicted by a deadly strain of meningitis. They restored hearing to a deaf child and healed many others of their bodily infirmities.

In 1957, when Fr. John reposed in the Lord, Fr. George was tonsured into the great schema. He was given the name John in honor of his newly departed spiritual brother. Fr. George-John now bore full responsibility for the affairs of the monastery. His health deteriorated further under the weight of this heavy yoke. His spiritual children began to come from the city to care for him.

Once a twenty-year-old girl arrived at the monastery, complaining of incessant headaches. She had been told that the water from Betania Monastery would heal her. She remained there for one week and was miraculously healed. When she left to return home, Fr. George-John walked five miles to see her off, in spite of his physical frailty.

The Theotokos appeared to Fr. George-John in a vision and relieved his terrible physical pain. The protomartyr Thekla also appeared to him, presenting him with a bunch of grapes. Several days before his repose, the holy father was in the city when an angel appeared to him and announced his imminent repose. The angel told him to return to the monastery to prepare for his departure from this world.

Saint George-John (Mkheidze) reposed in 1960. He was buried at Betania Monastery, next to Fr. John (Maisuradze). These venerable fathers were canonized on September 18, 2003, at a council of the Holy Synod under the spiritual leadership of His Holiness Ilia II, Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia. Frs. John and George-John have been lovingly deemed “one soul in two bodies.”

Daily Readings for Tuesday, September 20, 2022

EUSTATHIUS THE GREAT MARTYR, HIS WIFE AND TWO CHILDREN

NO FAST

Eustathius the Great Martyr, his wife and two children, Our Righteous Father Eustathius, Archbishop of Thessolonica, John the Foreigner, Hilarion the New Martyr of Crete, Afterfeast of the Holy Cross

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE EPHESIANS 6:10-17

Brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

LUKE 21:12-19

The Lord said to his disciples, "Beware of men who will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to meditate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Afterfeast of the Elevation of the Cross

From September 15 until the Leavetaking, we sing “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O son of God crucified in the flesh, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia” at weekday Liturgies following the Little Entrance.

Greatmartyr Eustáthios Placidas, with his wife and children, of Rome

Before his Baptism, the Holy Great Martyr Eustáthios was named Plakidas (Πλακίδας). He was a Roman General in the reigns of Emperors Titus (79-81) and Trajan (98-117). Even before he came to know Christ, Plakidas devoted himself to charitable endeavors, helping the poor and destitute. Therefore, the Lord did not allow this virtuous pagan to continue in the darkness of idolatry.

One day, while hunting in a forest, he saw a remarkable stag which stopped now and then to stare at him. Plakidas pursued it on horseback, but could not catch up. The stag jumped over a chasm and stood on the other side facing him. Suddenly, Plakidas saw a radiant Cross between its antlers. The General was astonished to hear a voice coming from the Cross saying, “Why do you pursue me, Plakidas?”

“Who are You, Master?” asked Plakidas. The voice replied, “I am Jesus Christ, Whom you do not know, but by your good deeds, you honor me. I have appeared here on this creature for your sake, to draw you into the net of my love for mankind. It is not fitting that one as righteous as you should worship idols and remain ignorant of the truth. It was to save mankind that I came into the world.”

Plakidas cried out, “Lord, I believe that You are the God of Heaven and earth, the Creator of all things. Master, teach me what I should do.” Again the Lord replied, “Go to the bishop of your country and receive Baptism from him, and he will instruct you.”

Plakidas returned home and joyfully recounted everything to his wife Tatiana. She in turn told him of a strange dream she had the evening before, in which she had been told, “Tomorrow you, your husband and your sons shall come to me and know that I am the true God.” The couple then proceeded to do as they had been told.

They hastened to the Christian bishop, who baptized all their family, and then communed them with the Holy Mysteries. Plakidas was renamed Eustáthios, his wife was called Theopistē, and their children, Agapios and Theopistos.

On the following day, Saint Eustáthios went to the place of his miraculous conversion and there he gave thanks to the Lord for having called him to the path of salvation.

Saint Eustáthios received another a miraculous revelation. The Lord Himself predicted his impending tribulations: “Eustáthios, you shall suffer many misfortunes, as did Job, but in the end you will conquer the devil.”

Soon Saint Eustáthios was afflicted with misfortune: all of his servants died of the plague, and his cattle perished. Brought to ruin, but not despairing in spirit, Saint Eustáthios and his family secretly abandoned their home, to live in poverty unknown, humble, and poor.

They went to Egypt to board a ship bound for Jerusalem. During the voyage the Saint experienced more sorrow. Captivated by Theopistē's beauty, the ship owner cruelly set Eustáthios and his children ashore, keeping the wife for himself.

With great sadness the Saint continued on his way, and new calamity befell him. Coming to a tempestuous river, he went to carry his two sons across in turn. When he brought the first one across, the other was seized by a lion and was carried off into the wilderness. As he turned back to shore, a wolf dragged the other child into the forest.

Saint Eustáthios wept bitterly, but he realized that Divine Providence had sent him these misfortunes in order to test his endurance and devotion to God. Saint Eustáthios prepared himself for even more sorrows, knowing that one who endures temptations and has been tested will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

In the village of Badessos he found work and spent five years in ceaseless toil. Saint Eustáthios did not know at the time that by God's mercy, shepherds and farmers had rescued his sons, and they were living near him. He was also unaware that the impudent shipowner had been struck down with a terrible disease and died, leaving Saint Theopistē untouched. She lived in peace and freedom at the place where the ship landed.

During this time it had become difficult for Emperor Trajan to raise an army for Rome to deal with a rebellion, for the soldiers refused to go into battle without Plakidas. They advised Trajan to send men out to all the cities to search for him.

Antiochos and Akakios, who were friends of Plakidas, sought him in various places. Finally, they arrived in the village where Saint Eustáthios lived. The soldiers found him, but they did not recognize him. They began telling him about the person they sought, asking for his help and promising him a large reward. Saint Eustáthios recognized his friends right away, but he did not disclose his identity to them.

Borrowing money from one of his friends, he prepared a meal for his visitors. As they looked at him, they noticed that he resembled their former commander. When they saw a scar on his shoulder from a deep wound made by a sword, they realized that it was their friend who stood before them. They embraced him with tears and told him why they had been looking for him.

Saint Eustáthios returned to Rome with them and was restored to his former rank. Many new recruits were drafted into the army from all over the Empire. He did not know that the two young soldiers who served him, and whom he loved for their skill and daring, were actually his own sons. They did not realize that they were serving under the command of their own father, nor that they were brothers by birth.

While on campaign, the army led by Eustáthios halted at a certain place. One night, the brothers were talking in their tent. The elder spoke about his life, how he had lost his mother and brother, and how he had been parted from his father. The younger brother then realized that the other man was his own brother, and revealed how he had been rescued from the wolf.

A woman overheard their conversation, since their tent was pitched right next to her house, and she realized that these were her sons. Without identifying herself to them, but not wishing to be separated from them, she went to their general, Saint Eustáthios, and asked that he take her to Rome with him. She said she had been a prisoner, and wanted to go home. Then she came to recognize the general as her husband, and with tears she told him about herself, and about the two soldiers who were their sons. Thus, through God's great mercy, the entire family was reunited.

Soon thereafter, the rebellion was crushed, and Saint Eustáthios returned to Rome with honor and glory. Emperor Trajan had died in the meantime, and his successor Hadrian (117-138) wanted to celebrate the victory with a solemn sacrifice to their "gods." To everyone's amazement, Saint Eustáthios did not go to the pagan temple. The Emperor ordered them to find him and bring him to the temple.

“Why don’t you want to worship the gods?” the Emperor inquired. “You, above all others, should offer thanks to them. Not only did they preserve you in war and grant you victory, but they also helped you to find your wife and children.” Saint Eustáthios replied: “I am a Christian and I glorify and give thanks to Christ, and I offer sacrifice to Him. I owe my life to Him. I do not know or believe in any other God.”

Outraged, the Emperor ordered him to remove his military belt and brought Eustáthios and his family before him. They did not succeed in persuading the steadfast confessors of Christ to offer sacrifice to idols. The Saint's family was sentenced to be torn to pieces by wild beasts, but the animals would not touch the holy martyrs.

Then the cruel Emperor ordered that they be thrown alive into a red-hot brass bull, and Saint Eustáthios, his wife Theopistē, and their sons Agapios and Theopistos suffered martyrdom. Before being placed inside the bull, Saint Eustathios prayed, “Grant, O Lord, Thy grace to our relics, and grant a place in Thy Kingdom to all who call upon us, Though they call upon us when in danger on a river, or on the sea, we entreat Thee to come to their aid.”

Three days later, they opened the brass bull, and the bodies of the holy martyrs were found unscathed. Not one hair of their heads was singed, and their faces shone with an unearthly beauty. Many who witnessed this miracle came to believe in Christ. Some pious Christians buried the bodies of the Saints with all honor and reverence.

Holy Martyr and Confessor Michael and his councilor, Theodore, Wonderworkers of Chernigov

The Holy Prince Michael of Chernigov, son of Vsevolod Ol’govich the Dark-Red (+ 1212), was noted from childhood for his piety and mildness. His health was very poor, but in 1186, trusting in the mercy of God, the young prince asked for the holy prayers of Saint Nikḗtas the Stylite of Pereyaslavl (May 24), who during these years received renown by his prayerful intercession before the Lord.

After he received a wooden staff from the holy ascetic, the prince was healed at once. In 1223 Prince Michael took part in a council of Russian princes at Kiev, debating whether to aid the Polovetsians against the approaching Mongol-Tatar hordes. With the death of his uncle, Mstislav of Chernigov in the Battle at the Kalka River in 1223, Saint Michael became Prince of Chernigov.

In 1225 he was invited to be prince of the Novgorod people. Through his sense of justice, compassion and firmness he gained the love and respect of Old Novgorod. This was particularly important for the Novgorodians, since the accession of Michael as prince signified a reconciliation of Novgorod with the city of Vladimir’s holy Great Prince George Vsevolodovich (March 4), whose wife was the holy princess Agatha, sister of Prince Michael.

But Saint Michael did not long remain prince at Novgorod. He soon returned to his native Chernigov. To the stipulations and requests of the Novgorodians to remain prince he answered that Chernigov and Novgorod ought to become kindred lands, and their inhabitants like brothers, and he would forge the bonds of friendship of these cities.

The noble prince assiduously concerned himself with the building up of his appenage realm. But it was difficult for him in these troubled times. His activity provoked unease in the Kursk Prince Oleg, and in 1227 internecine strife nearly erupted, but Metropolitan Cyril of Kiev reconciled them. And in this same year Prince Michael peacefully resolved a dispute between the Kiev Great Prince Vladimir Rurikovich and the Galich prince. In 1235 Prince Michael occupied the throne of Kiev.

Troublesome times ensued. In 1238 the Tatars (Mongols) laid waste to Ryazan, Suzdal, and Vladimir. In 1239 they moved against South Russia, and ravaged the left bank of the Dniepr River, and the lands of Chernigov and Pereyaslavl. By the autumn of 1240 the Mongols were coming close to Kiev. The khan’s emissaries proposed that Kiev surrender voluntarily, but the prince would not negotiate with them.

Prince Michael rode urgently to Hungary, to persuade the Hungarian king Bela to organize allied forces to resist the common enemy. Saint Michael tired to recruit both Poland, and the German emperor into the struggle against the Mongols, but the moment for a combined resistance was lost. Rus was devastated, and later Hungary and Poland. With no foreign support, Prince Michael returned to the ruins of Kiev and for a certain time he lived near the city on an island, and then he resettled in Chernigov.

The prince did not abandon hope in the possibility of an united Christian Europe against the Asiatic nomads. In 1245, at the Council of Lyons in France, his co-worker Metropolitan Peter (Akerovich) was sent as emissary by Saint Michael, calling for a crusade to march against the pagan Horde. Catholic Europe in the persons of its chief spiritual leaders, the Roman Pope and the German emperor, betrayed the interests of Christianity. The Pope was involved in a war with the German emperor, and the Germans took advantage of the Mongol invasion to attack Rus themselves.

In these circumstances affecting Christianity in general, there is a universal significance to the confessor’s deed of the martyred Orthodox Prince Saint Michael of Chernigov in the midst of the pagan Horde. In Rus emissaries of the khan soon appeared, in order to conduct a census of the Russian population and to impose taxes upon it.

The prince was ordered to make full submission to the Tatar khan, and for his princely realm, the khan would grant a special charter. The emissaries informed Prince Michael that it was necessary for him to journey to the Horde for an affirmation of rights to rule the princedom under the khan’s charter. Seeing the woeful plight of Rus, Prince Michael recognized the need to obey the khan, but as a fervent Christian he knew that he would not deny his faith before the pagans. From his spiritual Father, Bishop John, he received a blessing to journey to the Horde and be a true confessor of the Name of Christ.

With the holy Prince Michael on the journey to the Horde went his faithful friend and companion, the noble Theodore. At the Horde they knew about Prince Michael’s attempts to organize an uprising against the Tatars in concert with Hungary and the other European powers. His enemies had long sought the opportunity to destroy him.

In 1246 when Prince Michael and the boyar Theodore arrived at the Horde, they were instructed on how to go to the khan, to proceed through a fire to cleanse them of their evil intents, and to worship the primal elements considered gods by the Mongols: the sun and fire. In answer to the pagan priests commanding them to perform the pagan rituals, the holy Prince replied, “A Christian worships only God, the Creator of the world, and not creatures.”

They reported to the khan about the firmness of the Russian Prince. Batu’s attendant El’deg delivered the conditions: either fulfill the demands of the pagan priests, or die in torments. But this also was followed by the resolute answer of holy Prince Michael, “I am prepared to submit to the emperor, since that God has entrusted him with the destiny of the earthly kingdoms, but as a Christian, I cannot worship idols.” The fate of the brave Christians was sealed.

Taking courage in the words of the Lord: “Whoever would save his life, shall lose it, and whoever will lose his life for My sake shall save it” (Mt.16:25), the holy prince and his devoted boyar prepared for a martyr’s death and received the Holy Mysteries, which their spiritual Father gave them, foreseeing this possibility. The Tatar executioners seized the prince and for a long time they beat him fiercely, until the ground ran crimson with blood. Finally, Domanus, an apostate from the faith in Christ, cut off the head of the holy martyr.

The Tatars deceitfully promised Saint Theodore great honor and his lord’s princely rank if he would fulfill the pagan ritual. But Saint Theodore was not swayed by this, and he followed in the path of his prince. After quite vicious torments they beheaded him. The bodies of the holy passion-bearers were thrown to be eaten by dogs, but the Lord miraculously guarded them for several days, until faithful Christians could secretly bury them with reverence. Later on, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Chernigov.

The confessor’s act of Saint Theodore amazed even his executioners. Persuaded of the Russian people’s steadfast fidelity to the Orthodox Faith , and their readiness to die for Christ with joy, the Tatar khans decided not to try the patience of God as before, and ceased demanding that Russians at the Horde perform any pagan rituals. But the struggle of the Russian nation and the Russian Church against the Mongol Yoke continued for yet a long time. The Orthodox Church was adorned in this struggle by new martyrs and confessors. Great Prince Theodore was poisoned by the Mongols. Also martyred were Saint Roman of Ryazan (+ 1270), Saint Michael of Tver (+ 1318), his sons Demetrius (+ 1325) and Alexander (+ 1339). All of these took courage from the example and holy prayers of the Russian Protomartyr of the Horde, Saint Michael of Chernigov.

On February 14, 1572, at the wish of Tsar Ivan Vasilievich the Terrible, and with the blessing of Metropolitan Anthony, the relics of the holy martyrs were transferred to Moscow, to the temple dedicated to them. From there in 1770 they were transferred to the Visitation cathedral, and on November 21, 1774 to the Archangel cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin.

The Lives and service to Saints Michael and Theodore were compiled in the mid-sixteenth century by the renowned church writer, Saint Zenobios of Otonsk.

“The generation of the upright shall be blessed,” says the holy Psalmodist David (Ps. 111/112:2). This occurred in full measure for Saint Michael. He is at the head of many famous families in Russian history. His children and grandchildren continued the holy Christian service of Saint Michael. The Church also numbers his daughter Saint Euphrosyne of Suzdal (September 25), and his grandson Saint Oleg of Briansk (September 20) among the saints.

Saint Oleg, Prince of Briansk

Holy Prince Oleg Romanovich of Briansk (in Baptism Leontius) was grandson of the holy martyr Prince Michael of Chernigov. According to the chronicle histories, Prince Oleg together with his father, Prince Roman Mikhailovich of Briansk, participated in a war against Lithuania in 1274.

After 1274, he resigned as prince and became a monk with the name Basil at the Briansk monastery of Saints Peter and Paul, built through his generosity. The holy prince died at this monastery as a strict ascetic in the year 1285, and was buried in the monastery church.

Monastic Martyr Hilarion of Saint Anne Skete, Mount Athos

Saint Hilarion was from Heraklion in Crete and his secular name was John. He had five other siblings, John, Polyzoes, George, and two sisters, whose names are unknown. His parents, Francis and Katherine, had raised him with diligence, and he had learned to read and write. When he was a young man, his uncle took him to Constantinople, promising to train him for some occupation.

Although John stayed with him for ten years, his uncle neglected to train him and did little else for him. That is why John was forced to leave his uncle’s house and get a job as the clerk of a merchant from the island of Chios, who came to trust John. One day, the merchant was obliged to leave his shop and travel back to Chios, placing John and another Orthodox Christian employee in charge of the business.

When he returned, the two employees gave their boss an accounting for the time that he was away. The merchant said that he had been cheated, because the money they collected did not correspond to the value of the goods that were sold. Although the merchant did not make an inventory before going to Chios, he estimated that the two clerks were short by thirty grosia. The other employee had been with the merchant for many years, and so all suspicion fell on John. He was told that there would be severe consequences if he did not return the money at once.

Knowing that he was innocent, John asked his uncle to help him, but his uncle refused to see him. In his despair he went to the palace, hoping to see the valide sultana, the Sultan’s mother. First, however, he met the Ethiopian eunuch, Mertzan Aga. It appears that John knew him and told him what had happened. The evil Aga seized this opportunity and told him that if he converted to Islam, he would not be liable to any punishment; moreover, he would receive many riches and honors.

In his fear and anxiety, John accepted. Then he was presented to the Sultan’s mother, who introduced him to the Sultan. Right away, John was circumcised, and was given Muslim clothing and other gifts. In addition, a certain hodja was appointed to instruct him in Islamic teachings.

Three days later, the young man came to himself and repented from his heart when he realized the gravity of his sin. He waited for an opportunity to escape, and after twelve days he managed to board a ship for the Crimea, where he remained for ten months. He knew no peace there because his conscience tormented him for his betrayal of Christ. Therefore, he decided that the only way he could atone for his sin was by the path of martyrdom. Returning to Constantinople, he consulted the renowned Spiritual Fathers, Elder Symeon and Elder Jeremiah. He told them of his intention to confess Christ in the place where he had denied Him. Instead, the Elders advised him to go to Mount Athos for a time.

John did exactly as he was told, and entered Ivḗron Monastery. The Fathers there sent him to the Skete of St. Anna to place himself under the guidance of Hieromonk Bessarion, who had prepared the New Martyr Luke (March 23) for his martyrdom the previous year. The Elder accepted him and gave him a Rule of strict asceticism and fasting. Soon he received the monastic tonsure with the name Hilarion.

One morning, Father Hilarion told his Elder that he was ready to confess Christ, Whom he had denied. The Elder blessed his good intention, and the Saint received the Holy Mysteries. They left for Constantinople together, and then Father Hilarion presented himself to the Aga at the palace.

“Three days after becoming a Muslim,” he said, “I repented of what I had done, and I abandoned the darkness of error and returned to the light of truth, so I curse your religion. I was a Christian, and now I am once more.”

Throwing his turban on the ground, he put on the black monastic skoufia he had concealed under his coat. Seeing the Saint’s resolve, the Aga ordered that he be tortured without mercy. His torments were so severe that all his bones were broken.

Saint Hilarion was beheaded on September 20, 1804, and received two incorruptible crowns from Christ: that of asceticism, and that of martyrdom.

Elder Bessarion was once invited to a Christian home and the children were brought to receive his blessing. One child, a little girl about eight years old, had been possessed by a demon. She turned black, made some erratic movements, and eventually she fell down as if she were dead.The Elder had some of the Saint’s blood with him, but before he could even anoint the girl with it, the demon came out of her, and the child stood up.

Daily Readings for Monday, September 19, 2022

MONDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK

NO FAST

Trophimus, Sabbatius, & Dorymedon the Martyrs, Plato the new Hieromartyr of Patmos, Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, Afterfeast of the Holy Cross

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 2:11-16

Brethren, when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “if you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” We ourselves, who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified.

LUKE 3:19-22

At that time, Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by John for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison. Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Afterfeast of the Elevation of the Cross

From September 15 until the Leavetaking, we sing “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O son of God crucified in the flesh, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia” at weekday Liturgies following the Little Entrance.

Martyrs Trophimus, Sabbatius, and Dorymedon of Synnada

The Holy Martyrs Trophimus, Sabbatius and Dorymedon suffered for Christ during the reign of the Roman emperor Probus (276-282). A pagan festival was being celebrated in the city of Antioch. Sacrificial offerings were brought, the wine was poured, and vile acts were performed. The Christians Trophimus and Sabbatius arrived in the city just as the festival was taking place, and were saddened by this loud and indecent spectacle. They prayed that the Lord would guide the errant on the way of salvation. As they said this, the idolaters noticed their presence. Seeing that the strangers did not worship the idols, they arrested them and took them to the governor.

At their interrogation, the saints firmly confessed their faith. When they were told to renounce Christ, they resolutely refused to do so. Saint Sabbatius died under the fierce torment. Saint Trophimus was sent to the city of Synnada in Phrygia for even more terrible tortures.

For three days Saint Trophimus walked shod in iron sandals with sharp nails, driven on by a cavalry guard. The governor of Frigius, Dionysius, infamous as a torturer and executioner, used all manner of tortures to break the will of the brave Christian. Saint Trophimus merely repeated the words of Scripture: “many afflictions has the righteous one, but from them all will the Lord deliver him” (Ps 33/34:20).

The senator Dorymedon, a secret Christian, visited Saint Trophimus in prison, washing and binding his wounds. When the pagans learned that the senator would not participate in the festival of Castor and Pollux, they asked the reason for his refusal. He said that he was a Christian, and would not attend a festival in honor of the demons. He and Saint Trophimus were thrown to the wild beasts to be eaten by them, but the martyrs remained unharmed. Then they were beheaded with the sword.

Saint Theodore, Prince of Smolensk and Yaroslav, and his sons Saints David and Constantine

The holy right-believing Prince Theodore of Smolensk and Yaroslavl, nicknamed the “Black” [i.e. “dark” or “swarthy”], was born at a terrible time for Rus: the Mongol invasion of 1237-1239. At Baptism he was named for the holy Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates (February 8), who was particularly esteemed by the Russian warrior-princes.

Prince Theodore was famed for his military exploits. The child Theodore was not in the city when, through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos, the holy Martyr Mercurius (November 24) delivered Smolensk from being captured by Batu in the year 1239. They had taken him away and hidden him in a safe place during the warfare. In 1240 his father, Prince Rostislav died. He was a great-grandson of the holy Prince Rostislav of Smolensk and Kiev (March 14).

His elder brothers as heirs divided their father’s lands among themselves, allotting to the child Theodore the small holding of Mozhaisk. Here he spent his childhood, and here he studied Holy Scripture, the church services and military science.

In the year 1260, Prince Theodore was married to Maria Vasilievna, daughter of holy Prince Basil of Yaroslavl (July 3), and Theodore became Prince of Yaroslavl. They had a son named Michael, but Saint Theodore was soon widowed. He spent much of his time on military campaigns, and his son was raised by his mother-in-law, Princess Xenia.

In 1277, the allied forces of the Russian princes, in union with the Tatar forces, took part in a campaign in the Osetian land and in the taking of “its famed city Tetyakov.” In this war the allied forces won a complete victory. From the time of Saint Alexander Nevsky (November 23), the khans of the Golden Horde, seeing the uncrushable spiritual and the military strength of Orthodox Russia, were compelled to change their attitude. They began to draw the Russian princes into alliances, and the khans turned to them for military assistance.

The Russian Church made use of these providentially improved relations for the Christian enlightenment of the foreigners. Already in 1261, through the efforts of Saint Alexander Nevsky and Metropolitan Cyril III at Sarai, the capital of the Golden Horde, a diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church was established. In the year 1276, a Constantinople Council presided over by Patriarch John Bekkos (1275-1282) replied to questions of the Russian Bishop Theognostus of Sarai concerning the order for baptizing Tatars, and also for receiving Monophysite and Nestorian Christians among them into Orthodoxy.

During these years Prince Theodore was at the Horde. Having distinguished himself by military exploits on the Osetian campaign, he won the favorable attention of Khan Mengu-Temir, who regarded the Orthodox Church with respect, and who as Khan issued the first decree exempting the church from taxes for Metropolitan Cyril.

The Chronicles say: “The emperor Mengu-Temir and his empress were fond of Prince Theodore Rostislavich, and did not want to permit him return back to Rus because of his bravery and the comeliness of his face.”

Saint Theodore spent three years at the Horde. Finally, “the emperor sent him off with great honor,” and the prince arrived in Yaroslavl. His wife Maria had already died, and in the city Princess Xenia ruled with her grandson Michael. The people of Yaroslavl would not receive the prince returning from the Horde, “not allowing him to enter the city but saying to him, ‘this is Princess Xenia’s city, and Michael is our prince.’”

Saint Theodore had to return to the Horde. The empress, wife of khan Mengu-Temir, “had a great fondness for him and wished for him to marry her own daughter.” Such a marriage had tremendous significance for Rus. For a long time the Khan would not agree to it, regarding the Russian princes as mere vassals or subjects.

To give his daughter in marriage to a Russian prince meant to acknowledge him as an equal. More importantly, it meant that the khan would acknowledge the primacy of Orthodoxy, since before the wedding, the Tatar princess had to accept holy Baptism. The khan went along with this, since an alliance with Russia was very important for him, “and he ordered his daughter to be given to Prince Theodore, and for her to be baptized first, and he commanded that the Orthodox Faith not be insulted.” Thus Saint Theodore was married to the mighty khan's daughter, who was baptized with the name Anna. “The emperor held him in great esteem and commanded that he be seated opposite himself, he built him a palace, and gave him princes and nobles in retinue.”

There at the Golden Horde Saint Theodore’s sons, Prince David and Prince Constantine were also born. The tremendous influence which Saint Theodore gained at the Horde, he used to the glory of the Russian Land and the Russian Church. Orthodoxy gained strength among the Tatars, and the Horde began to adopt Russian customs, morals and piety. Russian merchants, architects, and skilled craftsmen carried Russian culture to the shores of the Don, the Volga, the Urals and even into Mongolia itself.

From this period archeologists find Orthodox icons, and crosses and lampadas, throughout all the former territories of the Golden Horde, since included as part of Russia. So began a great missionary movement of the Russian Church towards the East, and the enlightening of all the tribes with the light of the Gospel truth all the way to the Great Ocean (i.e. the Pacific). Russian Orthodox princes and their retinues, participating as allies in the Mongol campaigns, learned of and became familiar with the boundless expanses of Asia, Siberia and the Far East. In the year 1330, more than thirty years after the death of Saint Theodore, Chinese chronicles mention Russians in Peking.

Saint Theodore lived in Sarai until 1290, when “news reached him from Rus, from the city of Yaroslavl, that his first son, Prince Michael, had died.” Having given the prince rich gifts and a large retinue, the khan sent him back to Rus. Again he became the prince at Yaroslavl. Saint Theodore began zealously to concern himself with strengthening and building up his city and principality. He had a special love for the monastery of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

His fame resounded throughout Rus, and all the princes sought friendship and alliances with him. But most of all, he was fond of the son of Saint Alexander Nevsky, Andrew Alexandrovich, supporting him in all undertakings. When Prince Andrew became Great Prince of Vladimir, he went with him on military campaigns. He was gladdened by the victories, and he grieved over his defeat. In 1296, a bloody fratricidal war was just breaking out between two groups of princes: on the one side was Saint Theodore and Great Prince Andrew, and on the other side, Saint Michael of Tver (November 22) and Saint Daniel of Moscow (March 4). But with the help of God the bloodshed was successfully averted.

At a meeting of the princes (in 1296) Bishop Simeon of Vladimir and Bishop Ishmael of Sarai managed to bring peace to both sides. This fact, that holy Prince Theodore and Bishop Ishmael participated in the meeting, shows that Saint Theodore used all his diplomatic talents and influence at the Horde to establish peace in the Russian Land.

Saint Theodore the Black’s ties to his Smolensk origins were not sundered, though it would have been difficult for him to be Prince of Smolensk. Thus, in the year 1297, Saint Theodore went on a campaign to Smolensk to reclaim his lawful rights to the Smolensk principality, which had been usurped by his nephews. But he did not take the city and become the Prince of Smolensk again.

Soon after this campaign the holy warrior-prince became ill. On September 18, 1299 the saint gave orders that he be carried to the Savior-Transfiguration monastery, and there he received monastic tonsure. Towards the end of the ritual, Saint Theodore asked that the service be interrupted. With the blessing of the igumen, and to grant the wish of the dying prince, they carried him into the monastery courtyard, where a throng of the Yaroslavl people had already gathered. “And the prince repented before all the people, if he had sinned against anyone or held ill-feelings against anyone. He blessed all those who had sinned against him or borne him enmity, and begged their pardon. He accepted his responsibility for all his deeds before God and man.” Only after this did the humble warrior achieve his desire to finish his unusual and much-troubled life’s path by accepting the angelic schema.

All night the igumen and the brethren prayed over the holy prince. At the second hour of the night they began to ring the bell for Matins. Saint Theodore lay silently upon his monk’s cot and received the Holy Mysteries of Christ. When the monks began the third “Glory” of the Psalter, he made the Sign of the Cross and gave up his soul to the Lord. His appearance at the grave was extraordinary: “Wondrous indeed was the appearance of the blessed one. He lay upon the cot not as one dead, but as one alive. His face shone like as the rays of the sun, adorned by his venerable grey hair, bearing witness to his purity of soul and his benevolence.”

After him, his son Saint David (+ 1321) ruled at Yaroslavl. The second of his sons, Constantine, had evidently died earlier. The Church veneration of Prince Theodore in the Yaroslavl region began soon after his death. During the years 1322-1327, Bishop Prochorus of Rostov commissioned the famous Theodorov Gospel, adorned with miniatures, in memory of Saint Theodore. Previously, Bishop Prochorus had been igumen of the Savior-Transfiguration monastery at Yaroslavl. Actually, he knew the holy prince personally, and witnessed his tonsure and public repentance before the people. Historians think that the fine miniatures sewn into this precious manuscript had come from an earlier Gospel owned by Saint Theodore himself, and which he had brought with him to Yaroslavl as a blessing from his native Smolensk.

On March 5, 1463, at Yaroslavl the relics of holy Prince Theodore and his sons, David and Constantine were uncovered. The chronicler, an eyewitness to the event, recorded under that year: “At the city of Yaroslavl in the monastery of the Holy Savior they unearthed three Great Princes: Prince Theodore Rostislavich and his sons David and Constantine, and brought them above the ground. Great Prince Theodore was a man of great stature, and they placed his sons David and Constantine beside him. Their stature was less than his. They had lain in a single grave.” The physical appearance of the holy prince so impressed the eyewitnesses and those present at the uncovering of the relics, that an account of this was entered into the Prologue (lives of saints) in Saint Theodore’s Life, and also into the text of the Manual for Iconographers.

The Life of the holy Prince Theodore the Black was written shortly after the uncovering of the relics, by the hieromonk Anthony of the Yaroslav Savior monastery, with the blessing of the Metropolitan Philip of Moscow and All Rus. Another version of the Life was written by Andrew Yuriev at the Saint Cyril of White Lake monastery. A third and more detailed Life of Saint Theodore was included in the “Book of Ranks of Imperial Geneology,” compiled under Tsar Ivan the Terrible and Metropolitan Macarius.

The Russian people composed spiritual songs about Prince Theodore, which they sang over the centuries in “their destitute wanderings.” The verses glorify the saint’s piety and discernment, beneficence and kind-heartedness, and his concern for building and adorning churches. The complexity of historical destinies, the roughness of the era, the multitude of enemies (not personal, but enemies of Russia and the Church), reveal to us the great exploits of the saintly builders of the Russian Land.

Martyr Zosimas the Hermit of Cilicia

The Martyr Zosimas the Desert Dweller lived during the fourth century. Once, while hunting, Dometian, the governor of Sicily, saw the Elder calmly and amiably conversing with the beasts around him.

Seeing the hunters, the beasts fled. They then interrogated the Elder, asking who he was and why he lived in the wilderness. The Elder answered that he was a Christian called Zosimas, and that he could not live in the city with the enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, he lived alone among the wild animals.

Then Dometian said threateningly: “If you worship the Nazarene, I shall subject you to fierce tortures at Nazareth, and you will renounce Christ.”

When asked what kind of magic he used to tame wild beasts, Saint Zosimas replied, “I am a Christian.” At Nazareth the tortures began. They tied the Elder head downwards, with a large stone around his neck, and they began to lacerate his body with iron hooks.

The torturers taunted the sufferer: “If the beasts do listen to you, tell one of them to come here, and then we will believe in your God.” The holy martyr turned to God in prayer, and suddenly a huge lion came forth.

Everyone fled in terror, and the lion went up to the Elder, and began to lift the stone around the martyr’s neck with its paw in order to ease the suffering of the saint. The governor implored the martyr to keep the lion calm, and he gave orders to untie the saint, and to bring him to the emperor, but Saint Zosimas was already dead, having given up his pure soul to God.

Saint Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury

Saint Theodore was the eighth Archbishop of Canterbury (668-690), and one of England’s great saints. He was a Greek from Tarsus, the home of Saint Paul. He was a highly-educated monk living in Rome who was quickly advanced through all the clerical ranks and consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury at the age of sixty-five. Saint Adrian (January 9), an African who was the abbot of a monastery near Naples, was sent to assist Saint Theodore.

Saint Theodore arrived in Kent in 669, when he was almost seventy. In spite of his age, he was quite energetic, traveling throughout England founding churches and consecrating bishops to fill those Sees which were left vacant by an outbreak of plague. He also created new Sees and established a school in Canterbury where Greek was taught.

In Northumbria, Saint Theodore settled a dispute involving episcopal succession. Saint Wilfrid (October 12) had been elected Bishop of Lindisfarne (the See was later transferred to York), and he traveled to Gaul to be consecrated by a Roman bishop, because he would not accept consecration from a Celtic bishop. In the meantime, Saint Chad, or Ceadda (March 2), had been elected and uncanonically consecrated because Wilfrid remained in Gaul for three years. Although Saint Theodore deposed Saint Chad, he recognized his worthiness to be a bishop. He regularized the consecration, then sent Saint Chad to be Bishop of Mercia. Saint Wilfred was restored to his See.

Saint Theodore summoned a council of the entire English Church at Hertford in 672. Not only was this the first church council in England, it was the first assembly of any kind attended by representatives from all over the country. In 679 he convened another synod at Hatfield to maintain the purity of Orthodox doctrine and to condemn the heresy of Monothelitism.

Saint Theodore fell asleep in the Lord in 690, and his body remained incorrupt for a long time. Under his leadership, the English Church became united in a way that the various tribal kingdoms did not. The diocesean structures which he established continue to serve as the basis for church administration in England. He was respected for his administrative skills, and also for his moral and canonical decisions.

Right-believing Great Prince Igor of Kiev and Chernigov

The Holy Prince Igor of Chernigov: The mid-twelfth century was a grievous time of incessant internecine strife over the Kiev principality between two princely factions: the Olegovichi and the Mstislavichi. They were all close relatives, they were all great-grandsons of Yaroslav the Wise. The Mstislavichi were called after their father, Saint Mstislav the Great (April 15), son of Vladimir Monomakh (from whence their other name: “Monomashichi”). The Olegovichi were called after the name of Oleg Sviatoslavich (+ 1115), known as “Gorislavich” because of his bitter [“gore”] fate. Oleg Gorislavich was the son of the Kievan prince Sviatoslav (+ 1076), who participated in the Transfer of the Relics of the holy Passion-Bearers Boris and Gleb in the year 1072 (May 2). Sviatoslav was the owner of two of the most remarkable theological collections of this time — the “Sviatoslav Izbornik [selections from the holy Fathers] of 1073” and the “Izbornik of 1076.”

In certain old Mesyateslovs [Menaia], Prince Sviatoslav himself was esteemed as a saint of God, but particularly famed were his two grandsons: Saint Nicholas Sviatosha (October 14), and Nicholas’s first cousin, the holy Martyr Prince Igor Olegovich, the son of Oleg Gorislavich.

Saint Nicholas Sviatosha and Saint Igor Olegovich represent two different paths of Christian sanctity in ancient Rus. Saint Nicholas forsook the world and his princely duties to become a simple monk. He died in peace, after nearly forty years at the monastery. Saint Igor, involved in the struggle for the Kiev principality by God’s will, would blot out the sin of princely strife by his own martyrdom.

In the year 1138 the Great-principality of Kiev was assumed by Igor’s elder brother, Vsevolod Olegovich (great-grandfather of Saint Michael of Chernigov). Although his rule lasted only a few years and was filled with constant wars, Prince Vsevolod considered Kiev as his own dominion to bequeath [a view partly in conflict with the complex “appanage” system, rotating princes on the basis of seniority], and he decided to bequeath it as an inheritance to his brother Igor. For this he cited the example of Prince Vladimir Monomakh and said, almost as if intentionally provoking the Monomashichei: “Vladimir appointed Mstislav, his son, to follow after him in Kiev, and Mstislav designated his brother Yaropolk. ‘And herewith I declare that if God should take me, I give Kiev over to my brother Igor.’”

The haughty words of Vsevolod, whom the Kievans did not love, became a pretext for inciting enmity against his brother Igor and all the Olegovichi. “We do not want him to inherit,” resolved the Kievan council. The ill-will and arrogance of the prince provoked the ill-will and arrogance of the Kievans. Saint Igor, dragged into the very center of events against his will, became an innocent victim of the growing hatred.

On August 1, 1146 Prince Vsevolod died, and the Kievans kissed the cross, accepting Igor as their new prince. Igor kissed the cross and promised he would rule the people of Kiev justly and defend them. But the Kievan nobles violated their oath of fidelity when they kissed the cross, and immediately invited the Mstislavichi to Kiev with their forces. Beneath Kiev a battle raged between the forces of Prince Igor and those of Izyaslav Mstislavich. Once again breaking their oath, the Kievan forces went to Izyaslav’s side during the battle. For four days Igor Olegovich hid himself in the marshes about Kiev. Then they took him captive, and took him to Kiev and put him in the “blockhouse.” This was on August 13. His princely rule lasted only two weeks.

In order to free a prisoner from the “blockhouse,” a dank log house without windows or doors, it was necessary to “chop” him out of there. The much-suffering Igor fell grievously ill, and they thought that he would die. Under these conditions the enemies of the prince decided “to chop him out” of prison and have him tonsured a schemamonk at the Theodorov monastery. With the help of God, the prince recovered his health. As a monk at the monastery, he spent his time weeping and praying.

The struggle for Kiev continued. Incited by pride and blind hatred, neither side wanted to give in. Determined to wipe out the line of the Olegovichi, and all its princes, the Kievan council in the following year decided to kill the prince-monk.

The Metropolitan and the clergy tried to reason with them and stop them. The prince ruling at Kiev, Izyaslav Mstislavich, and in particular his brother Vladimir, tried to avert this senseless bloodshed, and to save the holy martyr, but they themselves were in danger from the vicious mob.

The mob rushed into church during the Holy Liturgy and seized Igor, who was praying before the icon of the Mother of God, and they dragged him out to kill him. Prince Vladimir halted the mob at the gates of the monastery. Igor said to him: “Brother, will you forsake me?” Vladimir jumped down from his horse, wanting to help, and covered him with his princely cloak while saying to the Kievan people: “Brethren, do not commit murder!” According to the Chronicle, “Vladimir led Igor to his mother’s palace, and they rushed at Vladimir.”

Vladimir succeeded in pushing Igor into the palace and locking the gates. But the people broke down the gates, and seeing Igor “in the lofts,” they dragged the holy martyr down and murdered him on the stairway. The vicious mob was so intense, that they subjected the dead body of the sufferer to further beatings and abuse. Then they dragged him by his feet to the Desyatina (Tithe) church. They threw him on a cart, and then “hung him up in the marketplace.”

Thus did the holy martyr surrender his soul to the Lord, “and he put off the perishable robe of mankind, and was clothed in the imperishable and much-suffering robe of Christ.” When on the evening of the same day the body of Saint Igor was transferred to the church of Saint Michael, “God manifested a great sign, and the candles around him lit by themselves.” On the second morning the holy sufferer was buried in the monastery of Saint Simeon, on the outskirts of Kiev.

In the year 1150, Prince Sviatoslav Olegovich of Chernigov transferred the relics of his brother, Saint Igor, to Chernigov and put them in the cathedral of the Savior. The wonderworking Igorov icon of the Mother of God, before which the martyr prayed before his murder, is in the Dormition church of the Kiev Caves Lavra (the icon is commemorated on June 5).

Daily Readings for Sunday, September 18, 2022

SUNDAY AFTER HOLY CROSS

NO FAST

Sunday after Holy Cross, Eumenius the Wonderworker, Bishop of Gortynia, Ariadne the Martyr, Afterfeast of the Holy Cross

ST. PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS 2:16-20

Brethren, knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified. But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we ourselves were found to be sinners, is Christ then an agent of sin? Certainly not! But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

MARK 8:34-38; 9:1

The Lord said: "If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.

Afterfeast of the Elevation of the Cross

From September 15 until the Leavetaking, we sing “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O son of God crucified in the flesh, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia” at weekday Liturgies following the Little Entrance.

Saint Eumenius, Bishop of Gortyna

Saint Eumenius from the time of his youth was noted for his virtuous life. He strove to serve the One God and therefore he shunned worldly temptations. Concerned for the salvation of his soul, he distributed all his substance to the poor.

By the blessing of God Saint Eumenius was chosen as Bishop of Gortyna on the island of Crete. The saint, like a compassionate father, comforted his flock in their sorrows, and cared for the orphaned and indigent. His prayers were so strong before God that once, during a drought, he called forth abundant rain upon the earth.

Saint Eumenius wisely and zealously defended the Orthodox Faith against the Monophysite heresy. For his opposition to the heresy the saint was banished to the Thebaid, where he died in the seventh century. His body was then transferred and buried in Gortyna.

Martyr Ariadne of Phrygia

The Holy Martyr Ariadne was a servant of Tertillos, a city official of Promyssia (Phrygia) during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (117-161). Once, when on the occasion of the birth of a son, the master made a sacrificial offering to the pagan gods, the Christian Ariadne refused to participate in the impious ceremony.

They subjected her to beatings and lacerated her body with sharp iron hooks. Then they threw the martyr into prison and for a long while they exhausted her with hunger, demanding that she worship their gods.

When they released the saint from prison, she left the city, but Tertillos sent pursuers after her. Seeing that they were chasing her, she ran, calling out to God to defend her from her enemies. Suddenly, through her prayers, a fissure opened in the mountain, and Saint Ariadne hid in it. This miracle brought the pursuers into confusion and fear. In their depravity of mind they began to strike one another with spears.

Martyrs Sophia, Irene, and Castor of Egypt

Saint Sophia endured martyrdom with Saints Castor and Irene in Alexandria.

Greatmartyr Prince Bidzini and Martyrs Princes Elizabar and Shalvi, of Georgia

In the 17th century the Persian aggressors razed churches, monasteries, and fortresses and drove out thousands of Georgian families to resettle them in remote provinces of Persia. The deserted territories were settled by Turkic tribes from Central Asia. In the chronicle The Life of Kartli it is written: “The name of Christ was not allowed to be uttered, except in a handful of mountainous regions: Tusheti, Pshavi, and Khevsureti.”

But the All-merciful Lord aroused a strong desire in the valiant prince Bidzina Choloqashvili of Kakheti and, together with Shalva and his uncle Elizbar, princes of Aragvi and Ksani provinces, he led a struggle to liberate Kakheti from the Tatars. (The Persian governor of Kakheti, Salim Khan (1656-1664), had been encouraging the Tatar tribesmen to profane the Christian churches.)

Fearing that the enemy, who had already conquered Kakheti, would soon move in and also dominate Kartli, the princes Bidzina, Shalva, and Elizbar united the forces of those two regions in preparation for the attack.

After much deliberation, Bidzina announced his intention to his father-in-law, Prince Zaal of Aragvi. Zaal’s soul was spiritually pained by the countless misfortunes and injustices his country had suffered, and he quickly pledged his support for the effort. He agreed to participate in the insurrection anonymously, while the Ksani rulers Shalva and Elizbar would command the armies.

On the moonless night of September 15, 1659, the feast of the Alaverdi Church (The feast of Saint Joseph of Alaverdi) the united army of all eastern Georgia assembled and crossed over the mountains, past the village of Akhmeta, and launched a surprise attack on the Persians from Bakhtrioni Fortress and Alaverdi Church. The invader’s armies were so utterly crushed that their leader, Salim Khan, the Persian governor of Kakheti, barely succeeded in escaping from the avengers, after he had abandoned his family and army.

The victorious Georgian army offered prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord God and Great-martyr George, the protector of the Georgian people, who had appeared visibly to all during the battle, riding his white horse like a flash of lightning and leading the Georgians to victory.

The joy was great but short lived. The furious Shah Abbas II (1642-1667) ordered King Vakhtang V of Kartli (1658-1675) to deliver to him those who had instigated the insurrection.

Certain that they would receive no mercy from the shah, Georgia’s heroic liberators nevertheless set out for Persia without complaint. The shah received them with respect and generously bestowed gifts upon them, but then demanded that they renounce the Christian Faith. Neither bribery nor flattery would break their will, so the shah ordered his servants to arrest and torture them, strip off their clothing, and cast them, bound, under the blazing sun. Tormented by thirst and insect stings, the martyrs were periodically tempted to renounce Christ, but with God’s help they resisted every temptation.

Finally the enraged Salim Khan, the vassal of Shah Abbas, ordered the beheading of Elizbar and Shalva, hoping by this to break Bidzina’s resolve. But his efforts were in vain. “There is nothing sweeter than death for Christ’s sake!” Bidzina proclaimed.

The Ksani princes calmly bowed their heads, but the undersized executioners could not reach the stately princes with their swords. So the shah’s henchmen hacked each of the princes in two at the shins, then decapitated them after they had fallen to an accessible height.

But even the murder of his companions would not cause Saint Bidzina’s will to waver. So the enemies resolved to break his will by mockery. They draped the bound prince in a chadar (the veil worn by Muslim women), seated him on a donkey, and paraded him through the streets. Then they began to butcher him alive. One by one they cut off his fingers and toes, then they chopped off his hands and feet, then his arms and legs, until only his head remained unharmed. It was clear from the movement of his lips that the holy martyr was praying.

Then one of the persecutors pierced his heart with a spear. This happened in the year 1661. The mutilated bodies of the holy martyrs remained under the open sky for one day, and no one was permitted to go near them. During the night they were illumined by a brilliant light.

Then a group of Christians secretly buried the saints’ remains. Several years later Saint Shalva’s wife Ketevan and son David sent several of the faithful to Persia to bring back their relics. Crowds of believers gathered at the Kartli border to meet the holy relics and accompany them with hymns of rejoicing to their final resting place at the Ikorta Church of the Archangels.

Translation of the “Staro Rus” Icon of the Mother of God in Triumph to Russia

The Staro Rus Icon of the Mother of God was so named because for a long time it was in Staro Rus, where it had been brought by the Greeks from Olviopolis during the very first period of Christianity in Russia. The icon was in Staro Rus until the seventeenth century. In 1655 during a plague it was revealed to a certain inhabitant of the city of Tikhvin that the pestilence would cease if the wonderworking Staro Rus Icon were transferred there, and the Tikhvin Icon sent to Staro Rus.

After the transfer of the icons the plague ceased, but the people of Tikhvin did not return the icon and only in the eighteenth century did they give permission to make a copy of the Staro Rus Icon, which on May 4, 1768 was sent to Stara Russa. A feast was established in honor of this event. On September 17, 1888 the original was also returned to Staro Rus and a second Feast day established.

“The Healer” Icon of the Mother of God

The original icon known as “Tselitel’nitsa,” or “The Healer” was from the Tsilkan church in Kartali, Georgia. It was painted at the time of Saint Nino (January 14).

There is another icon with the same name in the Alexeev women’s monastery in Moscow, and many miracles took place before it at the end of the eightheenth century. Saint Demetrius of Rostov (September 21 and October 28) relates a story about this icon in his book THE BEDEWED FLEECE.

A cleric of the Navarninsky church, Vincent Bulvinensky, was in the habit of venerating the icon of the Mother of God whenever he entered the church. He would also recite the following prayer before the icon: “Hail, Virgin Theotokos full of grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed is the womb which bore Christ, and the breasts which nourished the Lord God, our Savior.”

In time, he found himself suffering from a dreadful affliction. His tongue began to putrefy, and he passed out from the pain. When he came to himself, he prayed his usual prayer to the Most Holy Theotokos.

As soon as he had finished his prayer, he saw a handsome young man at the head of his bed. The sufferer realized at once that this was his guardian angel. The angel looked at him with pity, calling on the Mother of God to heal him. Suddenly, the Theotokos appeared and healed the sick man who was so devoted to Her. He got out of bed and went to church, taking his place on the cliros for the service. Those present were astonished to see his recovery.

This miracle inspired the painting of “The Healer” icon depicting the Mother of God standing at the bed of the sick man.

Venerable Euphrosynē of Suzdal

Saint Euphrosynē of Suzdal was born in 1212. Although she was a princess, she entered a women’s monastery in Suzdal, where she was tonsured with the name Euphrosynē, in honor of Saint Euphrosynē of Alexandria (September 25).

After her death on September 25, 1250, many miracles took place at her grave. Believers were healed of various infirmities, and their prayers were answered.

On September 18, 1698, with the blessing of Patriarch Adrian, Metropolitan Hilarion of Suzdal glorified the nun Euphrosynē as a saint.

Venerable Hilarion of Optina

On the night of Pascha, April 8-9, 1805, Saint Hilarion (Ponamarov) was born in Kluch, the third son of Nikḗtas and Euphemia Ponamarov, who named him Rodion in honor of Saint Herodion of the Seventy. He always considered April 8, the day of his patron saint’s commemoration, as his birthday. After Rodion, a son and a daughter were born to the Ponamarovs. The daughter, however, died as a baby.

Nikḗtas Ponamarov worked in town as a tailor, and sometimes his business took him to the homes of the local landowners. Consequently, Rodion seldom saw his father until he was fifteen years old.

Rodion was a quiet, uncoordinated child who did not play much with other children, since they made fun of his clumsiness. Even members of his own family behaved in a rude manner toward him, and seldom showed him any affection. The way he was treated made him thoughtful and introspective.

One winter he was playing in the snow with some friends, using an old board as a sled. The board broke and left Rodion with a permanent scar on the finger of his left hand. Another time he injured himself on a saddle-horn while riding. These injuries also had an effect on his health, which was never robust.

The family moved to the Novopersk region of Voronezh in 1820, and Rodion lived there until he was twenty. He helped his father in his work, and gradually acquired skill as a tailor. His parents wanted him to follow this trade, even though his mother once foretold that he would be a monk. Rodion himself desired the monastic life even as a young child, but now he applied himself to tailoring, for he knew that this handicraft would be very useful in the monastery.

Rodion went to Moscow in December of 1825 in order to learn more about being a tailor, arriving with very little money, and with nowhere to stay. He worked with various tailors, but the work was difficult and he became ill. His poor health, he said in later life, probably saved him from falling into many vices. Having increased his proficiency as a tailor, Rodion left Moscow and returned home.

The family moved again in 1829, this time to Saratov. Rodion was engaged twice, but the Lord did not want him to follow this path. His first fiancée died after a short illness, and Rodion simply lost interest in the second.

Saratov was the home to many sectarians of all sorts, and the future saint became involved with certain activists who tried to refute their false teachings. Rodion’s missionary labors may have influenced many sectarians to return to the Orthodox Church. Because of some misunderstanding, however, Rodion and his friends were put on trial. As a result, the authorities kept Rodion under observation for the next four years. This scrutiny was hard for him to endure, and made it very difficult for him to conduct his affairs.

Through his study of the Holy Scripture and the writings of the holy Fathers, Rodion’s desire to become a monk was reawakened. Therefore, he decided to find the monastery which was most suitable for him. In 1837 and 1838 Rodion visited monasteries at Sarov, Suzdal, Rostov, Tikhvin, Moscow, Pochaev, and other places. Finally, he arrived before the gates of Optina. He was thirty-four years old.

At first, Rodion was placed in a cell next to Father Barlaam, a retired igumen of Valaam Monastery. Father Barlaam was a man of great spiritual stature, who had a profound influence on the young man, and became his first instructor in the Jesus Prayer. In later years, Elder Hilarion recalled visiting Father Barlaam to tell him of the various things he had seen or heard. Father Barlaam would ask, “Is that useful? It would be better for you not to see or hear anything. Try to examine your thoughts and your heart more often.” With his wise counsel, Father Barlaam helped Rodion in his spiritual growth as a monk.

Saint Anthony (August 7), the Superior of the Skete, was transferred to Maloyaroslavets on December 1, 1839. He was replaced by Saint Macarius (September 7), the monastery’s confessor. Rodion was assigned to be his cell attendant, remaining in this obedience until the Elder’s death in 1860. Rodion went to Father Macarius for Confession, and to Saint Leonid (October 11) for the daily revelation of his thoughts. In an effort to cleanse himself of the passions, Rodion renounced his own will and obeyed Elder Macarius in all things.

Father Macarius was very strict with the novices, and would not permit the slightest disobedience. He was never the first to bring up a person’s failures and shortcomings, but waited for him to confess his own negligence. He taught the novices to love their neighbor, and to bear their afflictions with patience.

From the time Rodion came to Optina, he had other obediences in addition to serving as cell attendant to Father Macarius. He also tended the flower and vegetable gardens, and worked as a baker, and a bee-keeper. He carried out every task assigned him without complaint.

While his spiritual progress was hidden from men, it was certainly noticed by the all-seeing God. In due course, he received the monastic tonsure and was given the name Hilarion. Father Macarius recognized his disciple’s spiritual maturity, and predicted that he and Saint Ambrose (October 10) would succeed him as Elders after his death. Elder Macarius therefore entrusted Father Hilarion and Father Ambrose with giving counsel to his many spiritual children.

As the closest disciple of Saint Macarius, Father Hilarion was chosen to be Superior of the Skete, and the monastery’s Father Confessor. He confessed all the brethren entrusted to him five times a year, once during each of the Fasts, and twice during Great Lent. Each monk was questioned about the details of his inner life, and was given advice on how to conduct himself in future. Once he finished hearing the Confession of the monks, Father Hilarion began confessing the nuns, and the men and women who came to him from various places. Although there were many people, Father Hilarion never refused anyone. He rarely gave his own opinion, but quoted from the Scriptures or the writings of the Fathers. Sometimes, he would tell people what Father Macarius had said in similar situations. He was very effective in giving advice, because he always practiced what he preached, and he had already experienced the things that were troubling his spiritual children.

The Elder led people to feel sorrow for their sins, and through his questions he brought them to an awareness of their spiritual state. Sometimes he would help them to remember sins which they had forgotten to confess, sins which might lie at the root of their spiritual infirmity. He gave penances according to a person’s age, health, and circumstances. He might require the penitent to read certain prayers, do prostrations, give alms, and to avoid those habits and amusements which are not fitting for a Christian. Many people received much benefit from confessing to him, and continued to live according to the advice he had given them. Not only were they cured of their spiritual afflictions, but sometimes Father Hilarion also healed them of their physical or mental illness as well.

Father Hilarion, by God’s providence, became seriously ill for two years. All during that time he did not ask God to let him recover. Instead, he asked to be given the patience to help him bear the illness. He received Holy Communion frequently, and twice he was given Holy Unction.

During the last thirty-three days of his life, Father Hilarion partook of the life-giving Mysteries of Christ every day. In the last four weeks of his life, the Elder was unable to lie down in bed because of water in his lungs. Therefore, he remained seated on a couch in front of a portrait of Father Macarius. He experienced great discomfort, and was not able to sleep very well.

Father Hilarion observed the cell rule of prayer until the last moments of his life. Early on the morning of September 18, 1873 he listened to the morning rule being read, and received Holy Communion at 1:00 A.M. Five hours later, he rested from his labors and gave his soul into the hands of God.

It is said that during Father Hilarion’s final illness, Saint Macarius appeared to him many times in his dreams. As he drew closer to death, these appearances became more frequent. He died with his prayer rope in his hands, and was buried next to his beloved Elder, Saint Macarius.

The Moscow Patriarchate authorized local veneration of the Optina Elders on June 13,1996. The work of uncovering the relics of Saints Leonid, Macarius, Hilarion, Ambrose, Anatole I, Barsanuphius and Anatole II began on June 24/July 7, 1998 and was concluded the next day. However, because of the church Feasts (Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, etc.) associated with the actual dates of the uncovering of the relics, Patriarch Alexey II designated June 27/July 10 as the date for commemorating this event. The relics of the holy Elders now rest in the new church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God.

The Optina Elders were glorified by the Moscow Patriarchate for universal veneration on August 7, 2000.

Daily Readings for Saturday, September 17, 2022

SATURDAY AFTER HOLY CROSS

NO FAST

Saturday after Holy Cross, Sophia & her three daughters: Faith, Hope, and Love, Herakleides & Myron, Bishops of Cyprus, Afterfeast of the Holy Cross

ST. PAUL’S FIRST LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 1:26-31; 2:1-5

Brethren, consider your call, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption; therefore, as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord.” When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in much fear and trembling; and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

JOHN 8:21-30

The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “I go away, and you will seek me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” Then said the Jews, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’? ” He said to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” They said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Even what I have told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you and much to judge; but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him.” As he spoke thus, many believed in him.

Afterfeast of the Elevation of the Cross

From September 15 until the Leavetaking, we sing “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O son of God crucified in the flesh, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia” at weekday Liturgies following the Little Entrance.

Martyr Sophia and her three daughters at Rome

The Holy Martyrs Saint Sophia and her Daughters Faith, Hope and Love were born in Italy. Their mother was a pious Christian widow who named her daughters for the three Christian virtues. Faith was twelve, Hope was ten, and Love was nine. Saint Sophia raised them in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Sophia and her daughters did not hide their faith in Christ, but openly confessed it before everyone.

An official named Antiochus denounced them to the emperor Hadrian (117-138), who ordered that they be brought to Rome. Realizing that they would be taken before the emperor, the holy virgins prayed fervently to the Lord Jesus Christ, asking that He give them the strength not to fear torture and death. When the holy virgins and their mother came before the emperor, everyone present was amazed at their composure. They looked as though they had been brought to some happy festival, rather than to torture. Summoning each of the sisters in turn, Hadrian urged them to offer sacrifice to the goddess Artemis. The young girls remained unyielding.

Then the emperor ordered them to be tortured. They burned the holy virgins over an iron grating, then threw them into a red-hot oven, and finally into a cauldron with boiling tar, but the Lord preserved them.

The youngest child, Love, was tied to a wheel and they beat her with rods until her body was covered all over with bloody welts. After undergoing unspeakable torments, the holy virgins glorified their Heavenly Bridegroom and remained steadfast in the Faith.

They subjected Saint Sophia to another grievous torture: the mother was forced to watch the suffering of her daughters. She displayed adamant courage, and urged her daughters to endure their torments for the sake of the Heavenly Bridegroom. All three maidens were beheaded, and joyfully bent their necks beneath the sword.

In order to intensify Saint Sophia’s inner suffering, the emperor permitted her to take the bodies of her daughters. She placed their remains in coffins and loaded them on a wagon. She drove beyond the city limits and reverently buried them on a high hill. Saint Sophia sat there by the graves of her daughters for three days, and finally she gave up her soul to the Lord. Even though she did not suffer for Christ in the flesh, she was not deprived of a martyr’s crown. Instead, she suffered in her heart. Believers buried her body there beside her daughters.

The relics of the holy martyrs have rested at El’zasa, in the church of Esho since the year 777.

Martyr Theodota at Nicea

The Holy Martyr Theodota, a native of Cappadocia, suffered in the city of Nicea during the reign of the emperor Alexander Severus (222-235). At this time the governor of Cappadocia was a certain Symblicius. They told him that a rich woman named Theodota was confessing Christ. The governor summoned Theodota and for a long time urged her to turn from the true Faith.

Seeing the futility of his attempts, he gave Theodota over to torture. They suspended her and began to rake her with iron hooks, but she did not feel any pain. Then they put her in chains and led her away to a prison cell.

After eight days, when they led the saint out for new tortures, only faint traces of the tortures already endured remained on her body. The governor was amazed and asked, “Who are you?” The saint answered: “Your mind is darkened, but if you were sober, then you would have realized that I am Theodota.”

Symblicius commanded the martyr to be cast into a red-hot furnace. Flames shot out from the furnace and scorched those standing nearby, while those remaining unharmed shut the furnace and scattered in fright. After a certain while, pagan priests came and opened the furnace to scatter the ashes of the martyr, but they too were burned by the flames. Those remaining unhurt saw Saint Theodota unharmed. She stood in the midst of the flames between two youths in white raiment, and was glorifying the Lord. This apparition so terrified the pagans that they fell down as if dead. Later, they returned the saint to prison.

The invincibility of the martyr gave Symblicius no peace. He made a journey to Byzantium, on the return trip he stopped over at Ancyra and tried to get the better of Theodota. He gave orders to throw her all at once onto red-hot iron, but again the martyr remained unharmed.

Then Symblicius gave orders that the saint be taken to Nicea. There, in a pagan temple he wanted to compel her to offer sacrifice to the idols, but through the prayer of the saint, the idols fell and were shattered. The outraged governor gave orders to stretch the martyr out and saw through her body, but here also the power of God preserved the saint. The saw caused Theodota no harm, and the servants became exhausted. Finally, they beheaded the saint. Bishop Sophronius of Nicea buried her body.

Martyr Agathocleia

The holy martyr Agathocleia was a servant in the home of a certain Christian named Nicholas. His wife Paulina was a pagan. For eight years Agathocleia underwent abuse from her mistress because of her faith. Paulina fiercely beat the servant, and made her walk barefoot over sharp stones.

Once in a fit of nastiness, Paulina broke her rib with a blow from a hammer, and then cut out her tongue. Nothing could make the saint give in to the demand of her mistress to worship idols. Then Paulina locked the martyr in prison and exhausted her with hunger. But Agathocleia did not perish: birds brought her food each day. Finally, in a fit of evil, Paulina went to the prison and murdered the holy martyr.

156 Martyrs of Palestine, including Bishops Peleus and Nilus, the Presbyter Zeno, the Noblemen Patermuthius and Elias, and others

The Holy Martyrs Peleus and Nilus, Bishops of Egypt, Presbyter Zeno, Patermuthius, Elias and another 151 Martyrs suffered during the reign of the emperor Maximian Galerius (305-311). The majority of them were Egyptians, but there were also some Palestinians among them. Firmilian, the governor of Palestine, arrested 156 Christians. They gouged out the eyes of the holy martyrs, cut the tendons of their feet, and subjected them to all manner of tortures. They beheaded 100 of the martyrs, and burned the rest.

Icon of the Mother of God of Constantinople

The Constantinople Icon commemorated today is probably the prototype of another Constantinople Icon (April 25) venerated at Moscow’s Dormition church on Malaya Dimitrovka.

Icon of the Mother of God of Macariev

The Makariev “Directress” Icon of the Mother of God appeared during the reign of Prince Basil the Dark (1425-1462) to Saint Macarius the Wonderworker, who labored in asceticism on the desolate shores of the River Unzha.

On September 17, 1442 at about the third hour of the morning, when Saint Macarius was finishing his usual morning Akathist to the Most Holy Theotokos, his cell was illumined suddenly by an unknown light. The monk became confused in spirit and fervently began to pray.

Beyond the cell walls he heard the angelic refrain: “Hail, Full of Grace, O Virgin Mother!” With fear and astonishment the monk went out from his cell and on the northwest horizon he saw the icon of the Mother of God, surrounded by a luminous radiance.

The icon approached towards the cell of the ascetic. With joyful trembling the monk fell to the ground and cried out: “Hail, Mother of God! Hail, Ever-Flowing Fountain issuing salvation to all the world and assuring protection and intercession to all the land of Galicia!”

He reverently took up the icon and placed it in his cell, thus it also came to be named the “Cell-Icon.” Afterwards, the disciples of the monk gave it the title of “Makariev.” On the place of the appearance of the holy icon a monastery was founded, and was also named Makariev. Copies of the Makariev Icon of the Mother of God were made, which became as renowned as the original.

Daily Readings for Friday, September 16, 2022

EUPHEMIA THE GREAT MARTYR

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

Euphemia the Great Martyr, Sebastiana, Disciple of St. Paul the Apostle, Dorotheos the Hermit of Egypt, Melitina the Martyr, Afterfeast of the Holy Cross, Ninian the Enlightener of Scotland, Edith the Nun of Wilton Abbey

ST. PAUL’S SECOND LETTER TO THE CORINTHIANS 6:1-10

Brethren, working together with him, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in any one’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

LUKE 7:36-50

At that time, one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “What is it, Teacher?” “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Afterfeast of the Elevation of the Cross

From September 15 until the Leavetaking, we sing “O come, let us worship and fall down before Christ. O son of God crucified in the flesh, save us who sing to Thee: Alleluia” at weekday Liturgies following the Little Entrance.

Great Martyr Euphēmia the All-praised

The Holy Great Martyr Euphēmia (Ευφημία) was the daughter of Christian parents, the senator Philophronos and his wife Theodosia. She suffered for Christ in the year 304 in the city of Chalcedon, on the Bosphorus opposite Constantinople, the Queen of Cities.

Priscus, the Proconsul of Chalcedon, issued a decree which required all the inhabitants of Chalcedon and the surrounding area to attend a pagan festival, in order to worship and offer sacrifice to the idol of Ares. He threatened grave torments for anyone who failed to appear. During this impious festival, 49 Christians were hidden in one house, where they worshiped the true God in secret. The young virgin Euphēmia was among those who prayed there.

Soon their hiding place was discovered, and they were brought before Priscus to answer the charges against them. For nineteen days the martyrs were subjected to various torments, but none of them wavered in their faith, nor did they consent to offer sacrifice to the idol. The governor, beside himself with rage and not knowing any other way of forcing the Christians to abandon their faith, sent them to Emperor Diocletian for trial. He kept the youngest, the virgin Euphēmia, hoping that she would not persevere if she were left all alone.

Separated from her fellow-Christians, Saint Euphēmia fervently prayed that the Lord Jesus Christ would strengthen her for her impending ordeal. Priscus urged the Saint to offer sacrifice to the idol, promising her many rewards. When she refused, he ordered that she be tortured.

The martyr was tied to a wheel with sharp knives attached to it, which slashed her body. The Saint prayed aloud, and miraculously, the wheel stopped by itself and would not move despite all the efforts of the executioners. An angel of the Lord, came down from Heaven, removed Euphēmia from the wheel, and healed her of her wounds, and the Saint gave thanks to God.

Priscus did not notice the miracle which had taken place, so he ordered the soldiers Victor and Sosthenes to take the Saint to a red-hot furnace. But the soldiers, seeing two Angels in the midst of the flames, refused to carry out the Proconsul's order and declared that they believed in the God Whom Euphēmia worshipped. Boldly proclaiming that they were Christians, Victor and Sosthenes awaited punishment. They were sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts. In the arena, they begged God to forgive the sins they had committed, asking the Lord to receive them into the Heavenly Kingdom. A Divine voice was heard, and the two soldiers entered into eternal life. The beasts, however, did not harm their bodies.

Saint Euphēmia, cast into the fire by other soldiers, did not suffer. With God's help she emerged unscathed after many other torments. Ascribing these things to sorcery, Priscus ordered a pit to be dug. Filling it with knives, he had it covered over with earth and grass, so that the martyr would not notice this trap.

Once again, Saint Euphēmia remained safe, walking over the pit. Finally, she was sentenced to be devoured by wild beasts in the arena. Before her execution the Saint prayed that the Lord would deem her worthy of martyrdom. But none of the bears or lions attacked her, but only licked her feet. Finally, one she-bear wounded her foot, which bled slightly, and the Holy Great Martyr Euphēmia died right away. As her soul departed, there was an earthquake. The city was shaken, the walls fell down, and the pagan temples crumbled. As Saint Euphēmia lay dead in the sand, the guards and spectators fled in terror, so that the Saint's parents were able to take her body and bury it near Chalcedon.

Later, a majestic church was built over the grave of the Great Martyr Euphēmia. The sessions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council took place there in the year 451. At that time, the Holy Great Martyr Euphēmia confirmed the Orthodox confession of faith in a miraculous way, exposing the Monophysite heresy. That miracle is commemorated on July 11.

When the Persians captured Chalcedon in the year 617, the relics of the holy Great Martyr Euphēmia were transferred to Constantinople (around the year 620). During the Iconoclast heresy, the reliquary containing Saint Euphēmia's relics seems to have been thrown into the sea, but pious sailors recovered them. They were brought to the island of Lemnos, and they were returned to Constantinople in 796.

The incorrupt body of Saint Euphēmia is in the Patriarchal Church of Saint George at the Phanar in Constantinople. Portions of her relics are to be found in Kykkos Monastery on Cyprus, and in the Saint Alexander Nevsky Lavra at Saint Petersburg.

Repose of Saint Cyprian, Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia

Saint Cyprian, Metropolitan of Kiev and All Russia, was a Serb by origin, and struggled on Mt. Athos. By his pious life and education he came to the attention of Patriarch Philotheus of Constantinople (1354-1355, 1364-1376), who in 1375 consecrated Cyprian as Metropolitan of Kiev and Lithuania.

At the Constantinople Council it was decided to avoid a fragmentation of the Russian metropolia, and that “upon the death of Saint Alexis (February 12), he should become the Metropolitan of All Rus.” At Moscow, Saint Cyprian endured many sorrows from the Great Prince, so at first he lived either in Lithuania or at Constantinople. Only in the year 1390, in the time of Great Prince Basil Dimitrievich, was he accepted as primate at Moscow.

Saint Cyprian concerned himself with the correction of the service books. There are preserved autographic manuscripts of certain Slavonic translations by the saint, witnessing to his great scientific work. And by his pastoral epistles he encouraged the faith of the Church. His activity in the translation of liturgical literature is widely known.

Saint Sebastiana the Martyr, disciple of Saint Paul the Apostle, at Heraclea

The Holy Martyr Sebastiana was a follower of the holy Apostle Paul. During a persecution against Christians under the emperor Dometian (81-96), she was on trial as a Christian before the governor named Georgios in the city of Marcianopolis in the Mizea region.

Saint Sebastiana firmly confessed her faith in Christ, and for this she was subjected to cruel tortures. At first they beat her, and then they threw her into a red-hot oven, from which she emerged unharmed. They sent the saint to the city of Heraklea, where sentence was pronounced on her a second time.

The governor, named Pompian, gave orders to tie the saint to a tree and lacerate her body with roof-tiles. The martyr remained unbroken in her faith. Then the governor gave her to be eaten by wild beasts. There too, the Lord preserved the holy martyr, and the beasts refused to touch her. Then, by order of the governor, Saint Sebastiana was beheaded. Her body, thrown into the sea, was taken by angels to the island of Rhodes (in Thrace, in the Sea of Marmara).

Martyr Melitinḗ of Marcianopolis

The Holy Martyr Melitinḗ (Μελιτινή, or Μελιτίνη) lived in the city of Markianopolis in Thrace during the reign of Emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161). Antiochus was the ruler of Thrace at that time. Since he was a fierce persecutor of Christians, he ordered that Melitinḗ be arrested, because she was a devout Christian whose fiery preaching converted many pagans to Christ. The Lord blessed her with the gift of wonderworking and, by the power of her prayers, she shattered the idols of Apollo and Herakles. Antiochus tried to make her worship the pagan "gods," but his efforts were in vain.

Since the Saint could not be persuaded to deny Christ, she was handed over to the ruler's wife and some crafty women who tried to win her over her with flattery and kindness. Not only was Saint Melitinḗ not deceived or persuaded by their efforts, she converted the ruler's wife to Christianity. She who tried to conquer Melitinḗ was defeated. She wanted to make Melitinḗ an idolater, but she herself became a Christian. The two women, concealing this from Antiochus, worked together and brought many pagans to Christ.

The madman Antiochus was furious when he learned the truth, and had both women beheaded. Saint Melitinḗ walked bravely to her death, and to everlasting glory as well.

A certain Christian from Macedonia, whose name was Akakios, was passing through Markianopolis on his way back to his own country. Since Saint Melitinḗ's holy relics remained unburied, Akakios asked the ruler for them, intending to bury them in Macedonia. Antiochus did not suspect his godly intention, so he gave him the Saint's body. Akakios took the holy relics and placed them in a chest, and then he left for his own country in haste. While at sea, he became sick and died. The ship put in at a promontory on the island of Limnos in order to bury the Saint's relics. Akakios, who loved the martyrs, was also buried near the tomb of Saint Melitinḗ.

Martyrs Victor and Sosthenes at Chalcedon

Saints Victor and Sosthenes (Σωσθένης) are mentioned in the Life of the Holy Great Martyr Euphēmia (Ευφημία). The Proconsul Priscus ordered the soldiers Victor and Sosthenes to throw the Saint into a red-hot furnace. In the flames, however, they saw angels who prevented them from touching the Saint. When they refused to carry out the order, they were placed in shackles. Other soldiers, who threw Saint Euphēmia into the fire, were burnt by the flames escaping from the furnace, but inside the furnace, the martyr remained unharmed.

The Proconsul tried to make Victor and Sosthenes bow down to the idols, but they replied that they had come to know the true God. As they were led to the wild beasts, they begged the Lord to forgive the sins they had committed in their pagan delusion. Then a Divine voice came from Heaven, calling them to their rest, and they surrendered their souls to the Lord. The animals did not touch their bodies. Later, the two martyrs were buried secretly by some Christians.

In some calendars, such as the Roman Martyrology, the Saints' day of commemoration is listed as September 10.

Venerable Dorotheus the Hermit of Egypt

Saint Dorotheus, Egyptian Hermit, a native of the Thebaid region in Egypt, labored in asceticism for 60 years in the Skete desert, on the Western side of the River Nile. Palladius, Bishop of Helenopolis and author of the renowned Lausiac History, had been a disciple of Saint Dorotheus in his youth, and has preserved memories of him.

Saint Dorotheus led a austere and ascetic life. After finishing his prayers, he went into the noonday heat to gather stones along the seashore to build cells for the other hermits. By night the saint wove baskets, in exchange for which he received the supplies he needed in order to live.

Food for Saint Dorotheus consisted of bread and the meager grass in the wilderness. Once a day he partook of food and drank a little water. He did not lie down to sleep, but only dozed off sometimes at work, or after eating.

Once, Saint Dorotheus sent his disciple to fetch water, but he returned saying that he saw a snake in the well and that the water in the well was now poisoned. Saint Dorotheus went to the well himself, took up a ladle of water, and making the Sign of the Cross over it he drank it, saying: “Where the Cross is, there the demonic powers do no harm.” Saint Dorotheus died peacefully at an advanced age.

Martyr Ludmilla the grandmother of Saint Wenceslaus, Prince of the Czechs

The Holy Martyr Ludmilla, a Czech (Bohemian) princess, was married to the Czech prince Borivoy. Both spouses received holy Baptism from Saint Methodius, Archbishop of Moravia and Enlightener of the Slavs (Comm. 11 May).

As Christians, they showed concern for the enlightening of their subjects with the light of the true Faith, they built churches and invited priests to celebrate the divine services. Prince Borivoy died early at age 36. Saint Ludmilla, as a widow, led an austere, pious life and continued to be concerned for the Church during the reign of her son Bratislav, which lasted for 33 years.

Bratislav was married to Dragomira, with whom he had a son, Wenceslaus (Vyacheslav). After the death of Bratislav, eighteen-year-old Wenceslaus came on the throne. Taking advantage of the inexperience and youth of her son, Dragomira began to introduce pagan manners and customs in the country.

Saint Ludmilla, of course, opposed this. Dragomira came to hate her mother-in-law and tried to destroy her. When Saint Ludmilla moved away to the city of Techin, Dragomira sent two boyars in secret to murder her. Saint Ludmilla was praying at the time, and the two assassins entered the house and carried out Dragomira’s orders.

The relics of the holy Martyr Ludmilla were buried in Techin in the city wall. Numerous healings occurred at her grave. Prince Vyacheslav transferred the body of Saint Ludmilla to the city of Prague and placed it in the church of Saint George.

New Martyrs Isaac and Joseph of Georgia

The holy martyrs Isaac and Joseph the Georgians were born into a Muslim family, but their Georgian mother, a Christian, secretly raised them according to the Christian tradition.

The brothers were so firmly dedicated to the Faith that they journeyed to Byzantium to request that Emperor Nikēphóros I Phocas (802-811) permit them to settle in his capital. The pious ruler extended a warm welcome to the brothers, who were already well known and respected by the nobility of Theodosiopolis (Karnu).

Learning of the brothers’ intention, the emir of Theodosiopolis demanded to know the reason for their journey to Constantinople. The brothers answered him openly, citing their Christian Faith as the reason for their journey. Hearing this, the emir was infuriated, but he did not want to kill the brothers, since they were deeply respected by the people of his city. Instead he resolved to convert them from the Christian Faith.

Isaac and Joseph’s elderly father tearfully pleaded with them to deny Christ, while the emir promised them every honor and reward for betraying Him, and terrible suffering and death in the case of their refusal. But the holy brothers answered the emir, saying, “Remember that the flesh is like grass and every glory of this earth is like a flower that grows in the grass. When the grass withers, the flower also dies (c.f. Isaiah 40:6-7). Your threats of torture and death are for us rather absurd, for neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-9).”

The young men’s boldness enraged the emir, and he ordered his servants to execute them.

Before the holy brothers gave up their souls, they knelt to the ground and prayed: “O Holy King and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, look down upon Thy servants with mercy and receive us as a holy sacrifice. Number us among Thy martyrs and make us worthy of the crown of righteousness, for every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from Thee, the Father of lights (c.f. James 1:17)!”

Then they bowed their necks beneath the sword.

The executioners chopped off their heads, leaving their bodies untouched. That night their holy remains shone with a radiant light.

This miracle frightened the godless persecutors, and they ordered the local Christians to bury the holy martyrs’ remains. The local bishop and clergy committed their bodies to the earth with great reverence.

A church was later erected over the place where Saints Isaac and Joseph were laid to rest.

“Support of Humble” Icon of the Mother of God

The Icon of the Mother of God, “Support of the Humble”, appeared in 1420 at Stony Lake near Pskov. That same year, on September 16, it was transferred to Pskov and placed in the cathedral church. Today’s celebration was established in memory of the transfer of this wonderworking icon.

New Hieromartyr Gregory (Raevskii) of Tver

No information available at this time.

Saint Procopius

Saint Procopius was born in Bohemia, in the village of Hotun. In his dignity of priest he toiled much to spread the Christian Faith in Czechia. By the River Zasava he founded a monastery in the name of Saint John the Forerunner, where he died in the year 1053.